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New federal funding for police alternatives

The latest COVID-19 relief bill provides a ‘down payment’ for crisis response programs.


CAHOOTS employees Ashley Barnhill Hubbard and Christian Hawks attend to a man in crisis in Eugene, Oregon. Calls that might normally go to police are instead answered by CAHOOTS’ teams of mental health workers and EMTs. The American Response Plan contains federal funding for states to implement CAHOOTS-style programs.
Thomas Patterson

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Protests against police violence, and serious conversations about police reform and funding, dominated the national zeitgeist last summer following the killing of George Floyd. Cities in search of alternatives to traditional policing looked to Eugene, Oregon, where, for three decades, the CAHOOTS program (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) has provided emergency response focused on support and de-escalation (“There’s already an alternative to calling the police,” 6/11/20). The CAHOOTS program has a long track record of reducing violent interactions and saving taxpayer dollars. 


The $1.9 trillion American Response Plan, signed by President Joe Biden on March 11, includes federal funding for states to implement CAHOOTS-style programs. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told Eugene Weekly that the bill provides a “down payment” for the expansion of crisis intervention teams. The funding, which will pay for 85% of those programs, allows coordination with police but cannot directly fund police departments. Sen. Wyden has introduced a standalone bill that would up that percentage to 95%.

Carl Segerstrom is an assistant editor at High Country News, covering Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Rockies from Spokane, Washington. Email him at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor