CAHOOTS an alternative to traditional police, ambulance response

CAHOOTS an alternative to traditional police, ambulance response, February 2016

You’ve probably seen the van and wondered what it was.

A large, white van – mostly unassuming, save for the logo on the side: CAHOOTS.

Next to the title is a white bird, soaring into the sky. Look at the side of the van closer and you’ll see what CAHOOTS truly means:

“Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets”

“In some places we’re a household name, and you know, and other people are just kind of aware of what we do but maybe not the total scope of our ability,” said Maddy Slayden, a CAHOOTS EMT.

CAHOOTS calls itself a “mobile crisis intervention service integrated into the City of Eugene’s public safety program.”

It was formed in 1989 in a partnership between social service agency White Bird Clinic and City of Eugene public safety.

CAHOOTS is a confidential, voluntary and free service.

When someone calls CAHOOTS, a team is dispatched through Eugene’s non-emergency police-fire-ambulance call center.

CAHOOTS commonly responds to issues like:

Substance Abuse
Mental Illness
Dispute Resolution
Fire Aid
Basic Emergency Medical Care

KVAL News joined CAHOOTS team Brenton Gicker and Maddy Slayden for a morning. The team explained CAHOOTS, discussed their lives as CAHOOTS employees and visited several different locations they frequent during CAHOOTS calls.

“I usually work 12 hour shifts roughly from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.,” Gicker explained. “Most of the time we’re running calls from start to finish. We go in service in the morning, we let dispatchers know that we’re available, and then they start dispatching us to calls as they come in.”

Each CAHOOTS van is equipped with two CAHOOTS workers- a mental health specialist/crisis worker, like Gicker, and an EMT or paramedic, like Slayden. The vans carry warm clothing, blankets, food and water. CAHOOTS teams do not carry weapons and cannot arrest or detain individuals.

The CAHOOTS van also has a secured seating area in the back of the van. Gicker and Slayden explained they use the secured seating area in situations where it may not be safe for someone to sit upfront in the van.

If someone is intimidated by the secured area, Gicker or Slayden might sit with them to make sure they feel safe.

CAHOOTS often transports people to locations where they can receive help. When CAHOOTS encounters a homeless person in need of shelter, they might take them to the Eugene Mission. If someone is intoxicated and needs to recover, they might take them to Buckley Detoxification Center.

“Some of those agencies we end up having a really intimate working relationship with. Because they call us to help them with problems and we take people to them, so we end up depending on each other a lot,” Gicker said.

“CAHOOTS does a phenomenal job of really serving our guests, especially when they’re in crisis need,” Eugene Mission Executive Director Jack Tripp said. “I literally don’t believe that we could run the mission successfully without CAHOOTS.”

CAHOOTS reports that 60 percent of their clients are homeless, but Slayden says this is changing as more people learn about the organization.

“As our service continues to gain more public spotlight, as information about our service becomes more readily available, we kind of see these statistics shifting in some ways,” Slayden said. “Over the course of a day I can go to a mansion in the South Hills assisting with family mediation counseling, to Blair Alley.”

And as the awareness for CAHOOTS grows in Eugene and Springfield, Gicker says the need for services like CAHOOTS around the country grow as well.

“There’s a growing awareness that alternatives to law enforcement are needed, that alternatives to emergency medical services are needed. There’s a lot of people having problems related to psychiatric problems and addiction based problems and poverty problems, that end up getting addressed by the police but may be appropriately addressed by another resource,” Gicker said.


Eugene CAHOOTS runs from 11 a.m. – 3 a.m. Call them at the non-emergency EPD number (541) 682-5111.

Springfield CAHOOTS runs from 12 p.m. -11:30 p.m. Call them at the non-emergency SFPD number (541) 726-3714.

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