Portland Street Response now a citywide program

City leaders announced Monday morning that the Portland Street Response is now a citywide program.
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 12:42 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - City leaders announced Monday morning that the Portland Street Response is now a citywide program.

The program provides an unarmed response to people in behavioral or mental health crisis in non-life-threatening situations. It has been operating on the eastside for just over a year.

The city asked Portland State University to study the program. PSU found that 90 percent of the calls Portland Street Response went to were calls that would have gone to Portland police, which is understaffed and dealing with a huge spike in shootings.

PSU also found that almost 70 percent of the calls Portland Street Response went on were calls involving the houseless - some involved in mental health or behavioral crisis or suffering from drug abuse.

The team was not on calls when knives or guns or other weapons might be involved. Portland police still respond to those calls and will continue to, but still Chief Chuck Lovell praise the Portland Street Response teams.

“I think for us, when you bring on this new capacity to the public safety system in the city and it’s gonna help Portlanders in need get services they need, that’s a good thing,” Lovell said.

Portland Street Response began just over a year ago. First just in the Lents neighborhood, eventually it expanded to the entire East Precinct.

The teams work with Portland Fire & Rescue. It was PF&R Chief Sarah Boone who created a community health division for the bureau that now encompasses Portland Street Response.

Boone praised those in the city serving those who don’t have access to care, those who have been marginalized and disenfranchised.

“The drive and the purpose which comes from compassion and how we care about each other, and so today this reminds me of the city that I was raised in - Portland’s values. This is who we are, we care about each other,” she said.

Under the parameters of the initial program, Portland Street Response did not dispatch to calls involving suicide or calls inside residences. PSU researchers recommend expanding the Street Response program to also address those calls.

“We’ve heard from everyone from other first responders, police officers think they should be going to these types of calls. Community members are very surprised when they hear they don’t go on calls involving suicide. We’ve heard from firefighters who it would help their work,” Dr. Greg Townley, with Portland State University, said. “So, we strongly encourage this and believe that, or feel optimistic that at some point in the next year, they will be able to go on these types of calls.”

There are 20 people now working on Portland Street Response teams, which consist of firefighter paramedics, community health workers and mental health therapists. Portland Street Response hopes to triple that number as they expand citywide, now working seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The city hopes to have Portland Street Response running 24/7 later this year.