The importance of mental health workers for mobile crisis response

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With the US becoming more focused on addressing mental health, one important topic is how society responds to people experiencing mental health crises.

A typical crisis response involves a 911 dispatcher sending a police officer to respond and provide support. However, the vast majority of police officers have little or no training for how to best respond to those in mental health crises. In addition, people with serious mental health disorders are at elevated risk of being harmed in confrontations with the police.

About 30 years ago in Eugene, Oregon, a small group created an alternative program for people in crisis by sending trained mental health workers and EMTs to people experiencing mental health crises instead of the police. The program is called CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) and it's become a model for similar efforts around the country.

The organization, run by White Bird Clinic, is the subject of a Leading To Health article in the June 2021 issue of Health Affairs. On today's A Health Podyssey, CAHOOTS co-founder David Zeiss joins Health Affairs Editor-in-Chief Alan Weil to discuss diverting people in a mental health crisis from a police response to a system designed around mental health needs.

Order your copy of the July 2021 issue of Health Affairs.

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