NEW ORLEANS, LA — A team of three Tulane undergraduate students, Layla Babahaji, Alexandra Jaouiche and Melanie Carbery, won first place in an annual case competition hosted by the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. A total of 37 teams from 15 universities competed.
Babahaji and Jaouiche are both combined degree public health students at Tulane who will be enrolled full-time in the international health and sustainable development master’s program this fall. Carbery, a public health and economics major, will complete her degree later this year.
Teams proposed detailed, actionable policies in response to the “Defund the Police “demand. The Tulane team proposed integrating crisis intervention counselors (CICs) into the New Orleans Police Department, modeled after a successful program called Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets, or CAHOOTS, which began in Eugene, Oregon, in 1989.
While police officers frequently receive mental health crisis training, it may be only eight hours compared to the two to four years of education counselors receive, along with an additional 200 hours for a specialized CIC certificate.
Before submitting their proposals, all 37 teams attended a one-day workshop and outlined the steps involved in developing sound policy: identifying the problem, developing potential solutions, gathering evidence and evaluating ideas against predetermined criteria.
Judges for the competition were Keith Lampkin, former chief of staff and policy advisor to then-New Orleans City Councilmember Jason Williams. Katherine Mattes, senior professor of practice, director of the Tulane Law School Criminal Justice Clinic and co-director of the Women’s Prison Project. Jerome Morgan, co-founder of the Free-Dem Foundations, and Antoine Saacks, former NOPD assistant chief of police.
Johns Hopkins University and the University of Illinois at Chicago were also represented in the top three teams. Jaouiche and Babahaji believe their concept stands out because it is highly feasible and implementable. There are currently no plans to put their ideas into action in New Orleans.