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Mayor Wheeler proposes making Portland Street Response a 24-hour service

On Wednesday, Wheeler announced a major expansion of Portland Street Response will be included in his annual budget proposal early next week.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has proposed making Portland Street Response a round-the-clock service for non-violent behavioral and mental health calls.

On Wednesday, Wheeler announced a major expansion of Portland Street Response (PSR) will be included in his annual budget proposal early next week. 

"In my commitment to public safety reform and refocusing, it's been my top priority to make sure that calls go to the right emergency responders," Wheeler said. "For Portlanders experiencing mental and behavioral health crises, an unarmed trained specialist has proven to be the best practice." 

The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that under Wheeler's proposal, the program would operate 24/7 by early fall, and the number of its crisis response teams would grow to 16 from its current number of six.

"Let's get this program fully funded," Wheeler said. 

The mayor's statement comes one day after the Portland City Council was presented with a report from Portland State University that found PSR has "demonstrated success" since first launching as a pilot program in the Lents neighborhood in February 2021. 

The report said the street response team accounted for a roughly 4% reduction in total calls traditionally responded to by police for areas in which it operated, or a total of 903 calls.

Only 3.2% of all calls handled by PSR ended with a client being brought to a hospital and none of them resulted in an arrest

PSR was created under the umbrella of Portland Fire & Rescue’s Community Health Division and designed to provide an unarmed response to non-violent behavioral and mental health calls — dispatching a small team that includes crisis counselors and paramedics instead of police.

"Portland Street Response has come so far in a very short amount of time — from a small pilot program in one neighborhood to a citywide movement that has fundamentally changed Portland’s first response system," said Dr. Greg Townley, co-founder of the PSU collaborative and lead researcher on the report. "Portland Street Response provides a model for the nation to follow, and we look forward to continuing to monitor its progress and impact as it expands citywide.”

In March 2022, city officials announced that PSR was expanding citywide with service available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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