Rather than trying to defund police departments, a smarter approach would be to decrease confrontations in the first place using a combined medical/behavioral team.

In 2019, Olympia started sending crisis responders to nonviolent incidents instead of police. This approach is based on the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) model created 30 years ago by the Whitebird Clinic in Eugene, Oregon. CAHOOTS offers 24/7 help, dispatched through the Eugene police-fire-ambulance communication centers. The team utilizes the power of three: medical specialist, mental-health specialist and the police as an unseen resource/backup for the mobile team. Almost 20% of 911 calls, CAHOOTS uses less than 3% of the police annual budget.

Similar programs in Oakland, California, and Denver, Colorado, have shown that the CAHOOTS model works, can be used in many different city settings and costs a fraction of the police budget. Finally, the CAHOOTS model has gained federal support as Section No. 9813 of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Does your city have such a team? If not, why not? Like all great ideas, it’s simple but so powerful.               

JoAnn Ten Brinke, Redmond