Community groups working to bring mobile crisis unit to Rogue Valley

MEDFORD, Ore. — City and community organizations in the Rogue Valley are working to bring a mobile crisis unit to the area. These community organizations are hoping mobile crisis units will save taxpayers money, and also reduce arrests of people who experience mental illness, addiction or homelessness.

“In some cases, people end up in the jail when they really shouldn’t,” phoenix city council, Sarah Westover.

Tuesday night, law enforcement, social and mental health services and people from across the Rogue Valley came together. They listened to a presentation on a mobile crisis unit called CAHOOTS or crisis assistance helping out on the streets.

The program has been in Eugene and Springfield since 1989. A team of mental health professionals responds to a wide range of calls. They respond to everything from suicide to non-emergency medical care.

“Part of the value in our service is that we’re able to respond to a priority level that would require a uniformed officer response,” CAHOOT Program Director, Tim Black said.

Police respond to thousands of calls per year, CAHOOTS says it’s handled about 24,000 calls for law enforcement in Eugene/Springfield.

“We’re dispatched through the traditional public safety infrastructure means that we can engage a lot more proactively with folks and we can provide a service that’s a lot more preventative,” Black said.

The public paid about $1.6 million for the service in Lane county last year. At roughly 24,000 calls in a year, that comes out to about $66 a call. That caught the eye of Medford city councilor Kay Brooks.

Brooks says the emergency response costs the city significantly more than the $66 it would cost to operate a mobile crisis unit.

Multiple law enforcement agencies joined in on the conversation Tuesday including Jackson County Sheriff, Nathan Sickler.

“How do we best serve the entire community? The whole valley,” Sheriff Sickler said.

Sickler says he believes this could be a beneficial service to parts of the county, but he’s quick to point out the need for a bigger, more modern jail as being the biggest need for law enforcement.

“That will impact the entire community, meaning we will be able to keep the community safer, and then we can really start focusing down on what some of these other issues might be,” Sickler said.

CAHOOTS says they don’t want to recreate their same program here, but they do want to be a partner with law enforcement to figure out what a mobile unit could look like in the Rogue Valley.

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