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Portland Street Response expands to the whole city

The teams respond to non-emergency calls involving those with mental health needs that police would typically respond to.

PORTLAND, Ore. — More than a year after launching as a pilot project in Southeast Portland's Lents neighborhood, Portland Street Response (PSR) is launching citywide. City officials made the official announcement at a Monday morning news conference.

PSR is part of Portland Fire & Rescue’s Community Health Division and offers an unarmed response to non-life-threatening behavioral and mental health calls, dispatching crisis counselors and paramedics instead of police.

City officials have touted the program as a way to provide better-tailored support for individuals experiencing mental health crises, and to free up police to focus on emergency calls and violent offenders.

"The Portland Street Response is perfect as a solution in that it allows each of our providers to do what they are best trained and prepared to do," Mayor Ted Wheeler said on Monday.

RELATED: Portland Police Neighborhood Response Team launches pilot program aimed at solving community crime

The pilot project started in February 2021 with six staff members and it will expand to 20 full-time staff members. PSR started small, covering just under four square miles in Southeast Portland's Lents neighborhood.

In April 2021, it more than tripled, covering 13 square miles and tripled again in November to 36 square miles. Going city-wide, the program will cover 145 square miles across the entire city of Portland. 

"Portland Street Response has gone from a single team operating in Lents last February to a citywide operation in just one year, even while launching during a global pandemic," Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said at the press conference.

Portland State University's Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative research team tracked the PSR team's impact for the first six months. According to their research, police would have typically responded to almost 90% of the calls. 

More than half the calls involved someone with mental health needs and the most common outcome was that in about one-fourth of all the calls, the person was treated without being sent to a hospital. The research team also found that no arrests were made by police during any of the 383 calls PSR teams responded to.

PSR staff will not respond to a person in distress if there is a visible weapon, if a person is in a dangerous situation, such as in the middle of traffic, or they are in a private residence. In those instances and others, police will respond instead.

For the next phase of expansion, PSR’s hours will be 8 a.m.-10 p.m., seven days a week.

The city hopes to find funding to have PSR fully staffed and responding to calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Hardesty said she planned to urge her fellow commissioners to provide funding in the next budget cycle for another expansion.

Watch the full announcement news conference:

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