As police departments across the country have faced scrutiny in the last year for alleged systemic racism and brutality, the US is funding so-called mental health crisis teams to stand in for police.
The program is federally funded by Medicaid, a state health insurance program. In the wake of calls for defunding the police and reinventing policing, the taxpayer funded program aims to decrease violence within law enforcement. Mental health crisis teams will be employed to de-escalate situations wherein an individual faces a “drug or mental health crisis.”
The Biden Administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill allocates an estimated $1 billion over 10 years for states that establish mobile crisis teams. Modern Healthcare reports, “Many 911 calls are due to a person experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis. Sometimes, like with Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York, the consequences are shocking. The 41-year-old Black man died after police placed a spit hood over his head and held him to the pavement for about two minutes on a cold night in 2020 until he stopped breathing. He had run naked from his brother’s house after being released from a hospital following a mental health arrest. A grand jury voted down charges against the officers.” Mental health crisis teams are currently utilized by numerous cities, including Eugene, Oregon.
Modern Healthcare writes, “The program there is called Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets, or CAHOOTS, and is run by the White Bird Clinic.” Through coordination, CAHOOTS works independently from the city’s police department. The team is not sent to manage violent situations. Continuing, “We don’t look like law enforcement,” White Bird veteran Tim Black said. “We drive a big white cargo van. Our responders wear a T-shirt or a hoodie with a logo. We don’t have handcuffs or pepper spray, and the way we start to interact sends a message that we are not the police and this is going to be a far safer and voluntary interaction.” The effort to reduce fatal police encounters follows a series of nationally acknowledged allegations of police brutality and misconduct. For the past year, peaceful and violent demonstrations against law enforcement have ensued.
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ARTICLE: ANTOINETTE AHO
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: BUSINESS – INSIDER