Portland Street Response expands coverage area, launches night shift

The pilot program dispatches a mental health worker and a firefighter-paramedic to mental health crisis calls in lieu of police


Nicole Hayden
oregonlive.com

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Street Response, which dispatches a mental health worker and a paramedic to most daytime mental health crisis calls in Southeast Portland’s Lents neighborhood, will start taking calls late into the night starting Thursday.

While the original team had limited hours, the two teams now will be able to cover a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday shift and a 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Thursday through Sunday shift.

The new Portland Street Response team includes a firefighter/EMT, a mental health crisis responder and two peer support specialists. Instead of peer support specialists, the first team includes two community health workers.
The new Portland Street Response team includes a firefighter/EMT, a mental health crisis responder and two peer support specialists. Instead of peer support specialists, the first team includes two community health workers. (Photo/Portland.gov)

Initially, the single team worked within a 13-square-mile boundary in the Lents neighborhood. Now, the program will reach across 36-square-miles in Portland Police Bureau’s east precinct. The area sits between Southeast 39th Avenue and Northeast 162nd Avenue, and Interstate 84 and Southeast Clatsop Street.

The new team includes a firefighter/EMT, a mental health crisis responder and two peer support specialists. Instead of peer support specialists, the first team includes two community health workers. The idea is that first responders trained in mental health and interpersonal relations are more effective than armed police officers at helping deescalate crises tied to behavioral health.

“This next phase of Portland Street Response’s expansion is part of Portland Fire & Rescue’s commitment to health equity and a bureau-wide vision for creating a community where all of our neighbors are able to access the mental, behavioral health, and social service supports they need to live healthy, productive lives,” Fire Chief Sara Boone said in a statement.

At the launch of the program, Portland Street Response was designed to operate within boundaries that lined up with Portland Fire & Rescue areas. However, moving forward, the team will operate within a service area that matches Portland Police Bureau precinct boundaries to make dispatch more efficient.

Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who oversees Portland Street Response, said this expansion means the team is one step closer to expanding to serve the whole city.

“I’m so excited that today we are ready to expand Portland Street Response to a larger portion of Portland’s eastside with a new shift coming onboard,” Hardesty said in a statement. “I want to thank the Lents neighborhood for being an incredible partner throughout this pilot and Portlanders throughout the city who have continued to express strong support for growing Portland Street Response.”

A recent evaluation of the pilot non-police response program presented to Portland City Council recommended that the team expand across the city and remain a city entity as opposed to having a local nonprofit run it under a contract with the city. The evaluation was conducted by Portland State University’s Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative.

Officials hope to have three teams operating across the entire city by next year. But first, the non-police team may have to re-negotiate the calls it can respond to during March labor negotiations.

©2021 Advance Local Media LLC. Visit oregonlive.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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