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What is Portland Street Response?

Two people with Portland Fire and Portland Street Response sit side by side in a vehicle on the way to a call

Portland Street Response started in Lents in February 2021. | Photo via Portland Street Response

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This week, City of Portland officials held a press conference to announce that Portland Street Response (PSR) would expand citywide on March 28. Since the program is relatively new, we wanted to explain what it is exactly, and what this development will mean moving forward.

What is Portland Street Response?

The program provides non-police intervention for people experiencing behavioral or mental health crises. Its goal is to improve the first responder system by providing an additional compassionate first response option. PSR is coordinated by Portland Fire & Rescue, whose new Community Health Division also emphasizes preventive healthcare intervention.

How does it work?

When you see someone who meets the criteria (see below), you can call 911 and request PSR. This will dispatch a team composed of a firefighter paramedic, a mental health crisis therapist, and two community health workers who are trained to de-escalate and/or properly address any health needs. In its first year, the program took 1,000+ calls.

A checklist outlines criteria for dispatching Portland Street Response

A checklist for requesting PSR’s services | Photo via Portland Street Response

What does the expansion mean?

The team will now be able to respond to calls from 8 a.m.-10 p.m., seven days a week, across Portland’s entire 145 square mile area. PSR anticipates an elevated call load of 82 to 137 daily calls; you can track weekly updates on the response data dashboard.

What comes next?

A yearlong evaluation for the program will be released by Portland State University’s Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative in April 2022. Pending approval of its 2022-23 fiscal budget request of an additional $3.7 million (on top of $4.8 million already allocated), PSR hopes to further augment its services to 24 hours a day by bringing the program up to 58 full-time employees. If granted, this enhancement would be implemented in October 2022.

More information on the program can be found here.