PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A PSU study of the Portland Street Response program found it lightened the load from both PPB and Portland Fire & Rescue and a gradual but growing acceptance by both the public and first responders.
The Portland Street Response Year One Evaluation was prepared for PF&R, the bureau with direct supervision of the Street Response program.
During this first year of limited operation in the pilot project, Portland Street Response went to 903 incidents. The vast majority of those incidents — 824 — were incidents that previously would have been handled by PPB. The other 79 were fire and medical calls.
Put another way: the PSR pilot program took 4% of the calls that police generally would have responded to. The PSU study estimates the Street Response program could have handled at least 15,000 calls had it been implemented citywide.
None of the calls handled by PSR ended in the arrest of a client, the study found.
The PSR response also showed a 27% reduction in police responding to non-emergency welfare checks and unwanted persons calls. PSR also reduced PF&R responses to behavioral health and illegal burn calls by 12.4%.
Additionally, only 3.2% of people seen by the PSR teams needed to go to a hospital. Most were treated at the scene, the study found.
One big factor revealed in the study was that the Portland Street Response program is still not very well known. More than 70% of the homeless contacted by PSR hadn’t heard about them before. But once they interacted with the PSR teams, they rated the service a “5” on a scale with “5” being the best.
First responders from both the police and fire bureaus also warmed up to the idea of the Street Response team as the year went on and their roles became more clear.
“While PF&R staff expressed support for PSR throughout the pilot year, we observed a noticeable shift in attitudes among PPB staff from one of opposition or skepticism at six months to one of general support at one year,” the study found.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The study concluded the Portland Street Response should expand “to make its services available throughout the city and at all hours of the day.”
Community outreach and education efforts about PSR need to continue.
And clients expressed a concern about calling 911, either because of wait times or general fear of dealing with authorities. Alternative numbers to reach PSR “such as 311, 988, or a direct line to PSR at the 911 operating center” are a possibility.
The other aspect found in the study is the need to trust the PSR team and give them ample support. “They are well-equipped to lead with their vast personal and professional experience in the field. However, given the high rates of burnout and compassion fatigue among first responders, it is critical that the team receives ample opportunities for individual clinical supervision to process stress and secondary trauma,” the study found.
Portland Street Response launched February 16, 2021 in the Lents neighborhood. On November 4, 2021, it expanded to cover the entire PPB East Precinct. PSR is dispatched to a scene by the Bureau of Emergency Communications.
KOIN 6 News will have more details later in the day.