Editor's note: this story relies on quotes from a source who has chosen to remain anonymous. We have confirmed the source's proximity to the project being discussed.

During a private meeting with an Asheville business owners group, Mayor Esther Manheimer suggested that the city is looking into a CAHOOTS model crisis-intervention program.

A source who was working with the city on this program last year - and spoke to the Free Press on the condition of anonymity - disputes this claim. "They basically stopped even having conversations about CAHOOTS last fall. They just bring it up all the time as if it is something they are working on," the source said.

"They basically stopped even having conversations about CAHOOTS last fall. They just bring it up all the time as if it is something they are working on."

According to the source, Mayor Esther Manheimer and City Manager Debra Campbell were having regular meetings about CAHOOTS while working on the city's 2020 budget, then said they needed a six-week break to discuss among themselves. After this break there were no more conversations around planning the project.

APD says the Chief Won't Even Consider it Without Co-Response.

Our source spoke separately with police officers who told them that Chief David Zack wouldn't even consider this program unless it used a co-response model. Co-response is when non-police programs are dispatched alongside police.

"In the same sentence, they'd say they don't have enough cops to respond to X, Y, or Z, but would need to co-respond to these people in crisis," the source said.

They believe this unwillingness to implement the program as intended is the result of Chief David Zack's resistance to speaking with Eugene Oregon's police chief, who has publicly supported the program.

"[Organizers were] trying to get the police chief of Eugene to talk to [David Zack], but [Zack] wouldn't do it. He wouldn't set up the appointment. Instead, he called their crime statistics people, and they gave him pretty different statistics than what's been published everywhere else," the source said. "They said it's unsafe to respond alone."

In Lane County, Oregon, CAHOOTS responds to around 24,000 calls per year. In 2019, they say that only 311 of those incidents required police backup.

What is CAHOOTS?

CAHOOTS is an acronym for Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets. The program was developed in Eugene Oregon in 1989, and has been a staple of public safety responses there for over 30 years. CAHOOTS responds to about 20% of 911 calls received in the city, and sends a two-person team to help. This team consists of a medic and a trained mental health professional.

According to White Bird Clinic, the parent organization of CAHOOTS, "The CAHOOTS teams deal with a wide range of mental health-related crises, including conflict resolution, welfare checks, substance abuse, suicide threats, and more, relying on trauma-informed de-escalation and harm reduction techniques. CAHOOTS staff are not law enforcement officers and do not carry weapons; their training and experience are the tools they use to ensure a non-violent resolution of crisis situations. They also handle non-emergent medical issues, avoiding costly ambulance transport and emergency room treatment."

Mayor Promises More Information on Next Steps for the Project.

The Free Press reached out to Mayor Manheimer and City Manager Campbell for more information on Tuesday, August 3, 2021. Mayor Manheimer said that the city "should" be releasing an official press release on August 4. As of publication, this press release has not materialized. We will update our story with that information once it is available.

Photography by Orion Solstice

We are 100% funded by community members like you. If you like what you just read, help us make more like it by becoming a patron.

Become a Patron!