Study: Potential ‘citywide solution’ with Portland Street Response team

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A member of the Portland Street Response Team, April 2021 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The pilot program for the Portland Street Response team, an alternative to non-emergency calls for people experiencing a mental health crisis or homelessness, should be expanded for round-the-clock citywide responsiveness, according to a new Portland State University study that evaluated the program’s first six months.

The full study will be presented to Portland City Council during a work session on Tuesday morning.

Among the study’s findings into the program, which is currently based in the city’s Lents neighborhood, were a nearly 5% reduction in total calls Portland Police Bureau would normally respond to in Lents and a nearly 23% reduction in non-emergency welfare checks.

“Based on our findings, we believe Portland Street Response is well on its way to becoming a citywide solution to responding to 911 and non-emergency calls involving unhoused people and people experiencing a mental health crisis,” said Greg Townley, director of research at PSU’s Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative and the lead evaluator, said in a statement on the study.

However, the study also found there was still work to be done, including nearly 58% of homeless respondants telling researchers they didn’t feel safe calling 911, which is how Portland Street Response is dispatched, with some respondents reporting past judgmental treatment, legal concerns and preferring to take care of their issues on their own rather than relying on first responder help as reasons to not call 911.

Earlier this year, Portland City Council shot down a proposal to expand the team after Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty had introduced an amendment to make the team a citywide option; however, city officials said at the time they would look at expanding the pilot program at the six-month and 12-month mark.

More to come.

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