Portland (OR) Street Response Launches to Address Mental Health, Homeless Calls

Portland Street Response
Portland Street Response (Provided photo)

The pilot for the Portland Street Response (PSR), an innovative non-police response to assist people experiencing homelessness or a behavioral/mental health crisis, hits the streets for the first time on Tuesday.

Beginning at 10 a.m., the team will start taking calls dispatched from 911 to offer an alternative to police for people suffering mental and behavioral health challenges.

The team includes a program manager, a firefighter/paramedic, a mental health crisis clinician, and two community health workers. Each team member trained for the past month to prepare for calls. The team has been walking the Lents neighborhood, the pilot location, to introduce themselves to business owners and community members and to explain how they will aid Lents neighbors in crisis.

Lents was designated as the pilot location because it is not supported with many existing resources and services; additionally, the volume of mental and behavioral health calls in Lents is outpacing the growth of similar calls in other parts of the city.

The team initially will be available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. After six months, a second team will be added to cover the same area and to expand services to nights and weekend. By 2022, the program will ramp up to include more teams and coverage to locations across the city.

The types of calls that will be dispatched to PSR that were previously sent to police include:

  • Person outside needing a welfare check:
    • person down, unchecked (condition unknown)
    • person intoxicated or drug‐affected
    • person outside yelling
  • Person outside needing referral to services that do not have access to a phone.
  • Person outside needing a face‐to‐face mental health check when they cannot be transferred to the Multnomah County Crisis Line by phone.
  • Co‐response/mutual aid request from emergency responders.
  • Response requests from non-public‐safety entities.

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