Mental Health Crises Require Professional Help, Not Police Presence

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Sponsor: The Autism Site

Police officers are not trained to handle mental health crises. Support federally funded mobile crisis response teams!


Jeremy Mardis, 6 years old [1]. Daniel Prude, 41 years old [2]. Michelle Cusseaux, 50 years old [3]. Eric Parsa, 16 years old [4]. The list goes on and on. All of these Americans suffered from mental health crises and, when they were in their greatest time of need, were killed by police.

A study released by the Treatment Advocacy Center [5] revealed that people with untreated mental illnesses are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter. Since 2015, nearly a quarter of all people killed by police officers in America have had a known mental illness [6].

Police officers are not properly trained to handle mental health crises, and should never be the first responders to someone suffering from a mental health or substance use disorder (SUD) crisis. Additionally, time, money and resources are consistently wasted as police officers are often left to transport those in crisis to a psychiatric facility.

Nationwide, an estimated $918 million was spent by law enforcement on transporting people with severe mental illnesses in 2017. The amount of time spent transporting these individuals in that same year sums up to 165, 295 hours, or more than 18 years [7].

We need police departments across America to adopt mobile crisis response teams that can be dispatched when a person is experiencing a mental health crisis, without involving armed officers. These teams will be staffed with mental health professionals that will work closely with police, crisis services, and communities to support those in need.

Many cities have developed their own crisis response teams in answer to community needs. Eugene, OR developed the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) program, a 24-hour service that responds to 65 calls per day. The CAHOOTS model includes a team of two: a crisis intervention worker skilled in counseling and de-escalation techniques, and either an EMT or nurse [8].

In 2019, there were 17,700 calls for service (CFS) where CAHOOTS was dispatched rather than police. Out of the CFS where only CAHOOTS was contacted, only 2% required calls for backup from law enforcement. Further, only 8% of those backup calls were "CODE 3," indicating immediate and emergency police response [9].

Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has sponsored a bill called the CAHOOTS Act [10], which will give states federal funding to adopt mobile crisis response teams with the CAHOOTS model. This bill has been included in the Reconciliation Relief Legislation package and will soon be brought to the Senate for a vote.

Add your name to the list of supporters who want to see this bill pass into legislation. Free up resources so law enforcement can focus on criminal activity. Demand fair and equal treatment for your fellow Americans who live with mental illnesses. These individuals are not criminals and we must protect them from being treated as such!

More on this issue:,

  1. Chicago Tribune (24 March 2017), “Louisiana Officer Convicted In Shooting Death Of Autistic 6-year-old Boy
  2. The New York Times (23 February 2021), “What We Know About Daniel Prude's Case and Death
  3. The Republic (17 September 2015), “Phoenix Police: 2014 Fatal Shooting Of Michelle Cusseaux Was 'Outside' Policy
  4. Treatment Advocacy Center (December 2015), “Parents Sue Louisiana Sheriff and Deputies Over Autistic Son's Death” The New York Times, January 15, 2021
  5. Overlooked In The Undercounted
  6. The Washington Post (21 March 2021), “978 People Have been Shot And Killed By Police In The Past Year
  7. Treatment Advocacy Center (May, 2019), “Road Runners: The Role And Impact Of Law Enforcement In Transporting Individuals With Severe Mental Illness
  8. Psychiatric Times (29 January 2021)“CAHOOTS: A Model For Prehospital Mental Health Crisis Intervention
  9. Eugene Police Department Crime Analysis Unit (21 August 2020), “CAHOOTS Program Analysis
  10. The United States Committee on Finance (February 2021), “The Crisis Assistance Helping Out on The Streets (CAHOOTS) Act
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The Petition:

To the Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the Senate Majority Leader,

This letter is submitted in support of H.R.7961 CAHOOTS Act as part of the Reconciliation Relief Legislation package.

The CAHOOTS Act, sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., will allocate federal funding for states to adopt a CAHOOTS-model mobile crisis response team that may be dispatched in response to those experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder (SUD) crisis in place of law enforcement.

The Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) program originated in Eugene, OR and has shown great success in de-escalating situations in which individuals are suffering from a mental health crisis, providing resources for those seeking future professional help, and freeing up law enforcement resources and time to be better spent on criminal activity.

A study released by the Treatment Advocacy Center revealed that people with untreated mental illnesses are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter. Additionally, since 2015, nearly a quarter of all people killed by police officers in America have had a known mental illness. Police are not properly trained to handle mental health crises and therefore should never be on the frontlines of psychiatric care. The CAHOOT model allows mental health professionals, trained in de-escalation and counseling, and medical professionals to be the first responders at a mental health crisis.

In addition to law enforcement being ill-equipped to assess and treat a mental health crisis, they are also often left to serve as transportation to a psychiatric facility. In 2017, an estimated $918 million was spent by law enforcement on transporting people with severe mental illness, nationwide. The amount of time spent transporting these individuals in that same year sums up to 165, 296 hours, or more than 18 years. This is an immense waste of time, money and resources. Our police officers should be free to respond to criminal activity, where they are needed most.

The 2019 CAHOOTS program analysis, conducted by the Eugene Police Department Crime Analysis Unit, revealed that there were 17,700 calls for service (CFS) where CAHOOTS was dispatched rather than police. Out of the CFS where only CAHOOTS was contacted, only 2% required calls for backup from law enforcement. Additionally, only 8% of those backup calls were "CODE 3," indicating immediate and emergency police response. It is undeniable that this program is a success. Mobile crisis response teams that follow the CAHOOTS model should be considered an essential part of every police department, in every state.

We, the undersigned, implore you to put this law up for vote and support it alongside Senator Wyden. Our country is facing ever-declining mental health in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, and we are in desperate need of more support. The CAHOOTS Act will be the ideal solution that allows police officers the freedom to work on the cases they were trained and designed to handle, while creating a much-needed support system for those living with mental illnesses.

Sincerely,

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