After a nearly nine-hour continuous public hearing where Providence Residents called on the City Council to defund and abolish the police, and to provide more social service programs to help city residents in crisis, Providence City Council Majority Whip and Chairman of the Council’s Committee on Finance John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7) today announced his intention to replicate a program that was launched in Eugene, Oregon, in 1989 by White Bird Clinic, called Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets (CAHOOTS). This proposed pilot program would address the social service needs that are better treated by trained counselors, medics, and crisis managers than the police.
“As Chairman of the Committee on Finance I will be bringing this issue forward and inviting the Providence Department of Public Safety and community partners back before the Committee at our next meeting to discuss the implementation and funding of a pilot mobile crisis intervention unit program similar to CAHOOTS here in Providence,” Stated Councilman John J. Igliozzi.
The program that Igliozzi intends to launch in Providence would be similar to the approach that CAHOOTS has been using since its inception. The Eugene, Oregon based program deploys teams of two unarmed civilian officers with a medic and trained crisis worker to calls that are nonviolent and do not require an armed response. According to their shared data, they handled 18% of the 133,000 911 calls in the City of Eugene last year and only needed to call for police backup 150 times. The program is operated on a $2-million budget and saved the city nearly $14-million in costs of ambulance transport and emergency room care in the past year.
“Monday night, and into the early hours of Tuesday, we heard from more than two hundred individuals that shared their fear, anguish, and concerns over the way police are called upon to handle crisis situations. Several of the 911 calls that our police department is called to answer are situations in which they are not necessarily trained to address. They are trained to deal with violent crimes, not mental health, and social service calls.”
Councilman Igliozzi continued, “In addition to the work I will be doing in Committee, I will be putting forth a resolution at the next City Council meeting calling on the City to officially implement a pilot program that mirrors the success that has been achieved in Eugene, working in partnership with the Police Department, the City Council, and community advocates. It was clear to me that we are a city in pain and abolishing or defunding the police is an unachievable goal in this current budget season. However, I believe we have an opportunity to divert funds from bloated city programs to create and embed a Social Service Mobile Crisis Unit in the Department of Public Safety that can address and alleviate many – not all – of the concerns that we heard from the residents who testified.”
Ebony Morgan from CAHOOTS Crisis Intervention wrote in a statement, “At our roots, Cahoots is innovative, forward-thinking, and dedicated to serving marginalized populations.” The pilot program that Councilman Igliozzi is proposing would mirror what they have achieved in Eugene, but will have a focus on addressing the issues that might be unique to Providence.
“The spending portion of the budget for the City of Providence is nowhere near complete, and by taking the time now to look at the budget holistically we can create the same kind of pilot program here in our City, and I believe we will be better for it.,” stated Chairman Igliozzi.
Chairman Igliozzi will be bringing together stakeholders to discuss how the City of Providence can create a pilot program and work with institutional partners.