The pilot program for the Portland Street Response team, an alternative to non-emergency calls for people experiencing a mental health crisis or homelessness, should be expanded for citywide and round-the-clock, according to a new Portland State University study that evaluated the program's first six months.
The full study was presented to the Portland City Council during a work session on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
Among the study's findings into the program, which is currently based in the Lents Neighborhood, were a nearly 5% reduction in total calls the Portland Police Bureau would normally respond to in Lents and a nearly 23% reduction in non-emergency welfare checks.
"Based on our findings, we believe Portland Street Response is well on its way to becoming a citywide solution to responding to 911 and non-emergency calls involving unhoused people and people experiencing a mental health crisis," Greg Townley, director of research at PSU's Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative and the lead evaluator, said in a statement on the study.
However, the study also found there was still work to be done, including nearly 58% of homeless respondents telling researchers they didn't feel safe calling 911, which is how Portland Street Response is dispatched, with some respondents reporting past judgmental treatment, legal concerns and preferring to take care of their issues on their own rather than relying on first responder help as reasons to not call 911.
Earlier this year, the council rejected a proposal to expand the team citywide by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty before the study was complete. City officials said at the time they would look at expanding the pilot program at the six-month and 12-month mark.
A video of the work session can be found here.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.