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If 911 isn't the best choice, who do you call when you see someone in distress in Portland?

Portland Street Response is still limited to one neighborhood. Amid a mounting housing crisis and historic stress brought on by the pandemic, what resources exist?

Maggie Vespa

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Published: 8/9/2021 5:55:17 PM
Updated: 9:48 AM PDT August 12, 2021

More than a year after Portland city commissioners voted to fund a long-awaited program aimed at providing a non-police response to mental health calls, and more than six months after that program launched as a small pilot project limited to one neighborhood, the vast majority of the city’s first response model remains largely unchanged. 

Portland Street Response, which sends a crisis counselor and paramedic to calls involving addiction or mental health concerns, still only operates in Southeast Portland’s Lents neighborhood. In a surprising twist this summer, city commissioners voted 3-2 against guaranteeing the boost in funding needed to expand it citywide next spring.

In the meantime, Portland’s housing crisis appears worse than ever, with an unprecedented number of people camping on the city’s streets. Plus, experts say stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, historically severe wildfires and other traumatic events of the last year and a half are causing rates of depression and anxiety to spike.

So, whether on the streets or in your own home, when you see someone who appears to be experiencing a mental health crisis in Portland, who do you call? What resources, besides 911 and police, exist? And when you do call, what should you expect?

KGW set out to find simple answers.