May 23, 2024
Eugene Police Department launches new co-responder program for mental health crises

The Eugene Police Department recently began embedding a Lane County Behavioral Health professional with police for mental health-related calls in downtown Eugene. A new federal grant will help expand the program.

Eugene Police Department launches new co-responder program for mental health crises

A police officer and a civilian-clothed specialist speak to a person whose identity is being purposefully hidden.

Courtesy of the Eugene Police Department

Police Chief Chris Skinner said sending a specialist in civilian clothes can keep non-criminal situations from escalating. “They have a depth of resources they can bring to the table to help get people on a path to wellness,” he said. “And if we stabilize folks downtown, then that’s good for us because then we don’t have police officers responding to calls for service. We really think that we can move the needle on safety, and the sense of safety downtown through this program.”

The program was initially funded through the Community Safety Payroll Tax. The $550,000 Bureau of Justice Assistance grant will be matched by more than $250,000 from the City of Eugene and will fund a second co-responder and a peer support specialist.

A police spokesperson said the co-responder program complements CAHOOTS, Eugene’s mobile crisis intervention service, by working with Lane County as a partner for resources and case management. A Lane County staffer said the EPD program handles more complex and potentially risky calls that mobile crisis would not address.

Skinner said he hopes to eventually expand the program city-wide. He said he supports Lane County’s plans for a stabilization center as an alternative to jail for those with behavioral health issues.

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