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Portland Street Response Frequently Asked Questions

A list of common questions and answers about Portland Street Reponse.

Portland Street Response Frequently Asked Questions

When will the Portland Street Response pilot launch?

The Portland Street Response pilot started January 2021 when the team began training. On February 16, 2021 the team started taking calls in Lents.

Where will the pilot operate and why just in that part of the city?

The first part of the pilot will operate in the Lents area. Lents was designated as the first pilot location because it is not supported with many existing resources and services; additionally, the volume of calls in Lents is outpacing the growth of calls across the rest of the city.

Who will be on the team and how many teams will there be?

Portland Street Response is starting with one team of four that includes a Firefighter EMT, a Licensed Mental Health Crisis Therapist, and two Community Health Workers. They will work Monday through Friday 10 am-6 pm, and then a similar second team will be added six-months later to cover the same area but respond at night and on the weekends.

Can I volunteer or help out in some way?

We are excited by the number of requests we are receiving from community members who want to help. At this time, we don't have a formal structure in place for volunteers to assist us, but we are evaluating how we might sponsor a volunteer program. We will update this site to let you know how you might be able to help. Please follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook to be updated on the latest opportunities.

Can I donate money/products to the project?

We are currently not set up to take financial or product donations at this time. We are looking at ways to accept these generous offers. Please follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook to be updated on the latest opportunities.

How do I get a job with Portland Street Response?

As the program expands, we will hire new employees. Please follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook to be updated on the latest opportunities. Additionally, you can get alerted to new City of Portland job opportunities at: https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/portlandor

Can I call 911 and request Portland Street Response?

During the pilot period, community members in Lents may request Street Response. Our 911 dispatchers will have a list of questions they will ask to determine which responder is most appropriate to send: Police, Fire, Portland Street Response, or AMR ambulance service. If the call fits the criteria for Portland Street Response, dispatchers will alert the team and send them to the call.

City Council approved the launch in November 2019. Why is it taking so long to launch the pilot?

Portland's Public Safety Bureaus were impacted by the global pandemic and it required the City to shift resources and priorities to address the demand of the current public health crisis.  Like so many, we were disappointed that the onset of COVID caused a six-month delay, but the pilot is now underway.

Council approved a budget of $4.8 million. Why is it starting with only 2 teams and in one area of the city?

We share the excitement Portlanders are feeling now that the pilot has launched. We understand the urgency to expand this needed service throughout the city, but we need to do this right and learn lessons from the pilot to set the program up for long-term success. Creating a new branch of a first response system is almost unheard of in modern times and we are building this from scratch. The additional funding secured last summer will allow PSR to launch a second team later this year while building out the infrastructure to expand city wide next year.

A major element of increasing our infrastructure includes our 911 dispatch center being able to support a citywide expansion for Portland Street Response. Our evaluations show that it will take a year for that infrastructure to be in place: 

1) By September 2021, the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) will have built a dedicated net (radio channel) for Portland Street Response that is separate from the Police or Fire frequency. This dedicated channel will allow dispatch the ability to support the Lents neighborhood on a 24/7 basis that will extend into the 2022 citywide rollout.

2) Beginning Spring 2022, the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) will have a single dispatcher ready and dedicated for Portland Street Response citywide expansion. Each dispatcher can coordinate ten teams working at a time, meaning that Portland Street Response will be able to launch as many as ten units/vans at once, citywide. If call volume prescribes the need for more than ten Portland Street Response units/vans deployed citywide at the same time, BOEC will hire and staff a second dedicated dispatcher for Portland Street Response. A second dispatcher will allow BOEC the ability to coordinate up to twenty Portland Street Response teams at once and this option would be available by January 2023.

How are you spending the $4.8 million allocated?

Money was reallocated from this fiscal year's budget to help cover COVID related services for the community.  Because our pilot got a later start in the fiscal year, we were not going to be able to utilize the full for $4.8 million: we have about $2 million for program costs through the end of June 2021. Come July 2021, we’ll have access to the full $4.8 million for ongoing purposes.

Right now, we’re using the $2 million to cover personnel, our contract for program evaluation with PSU, one-time apparatus costs (we’ve ordered six custom vans which take a year to produce in expectation of the citywide launch), setting up and furnishing our headquarters, training, overhead for PF&R administrative and logistics assistance, and a contract for a new charting system that can accommodate both EMS and Mental Health related calls. 

A work session is being planned for early spring where council will further discuss plans for expansion.

Will Portland Street Response address the homeless crisis?

The goal of Portland Street Response is to update our first responder system by providing an additional compassionate first response option when 911 is called on someone experiencing homelessness or a low-acuity behavioral health issues, not to solve homelessness.

How will the City determine whether this program is a success?

Portland Street Response is partnering with Portland State University's Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative to help provide external program evaluation. Frequent updates on program outcomes will be posted on the Portland Street Response webpage and will be presented to Council during and after the pilot.

Why is Portland Street Response coordinated by Portland Fire &Rescue?

Portland Street Response is coordinated by Portland Fire & Rescue for several reasons: 1) the program needs infrastructure that is connected to the current 911 system; 2) Portland Fire & Rescue’s Community Healthcare Assessment Team (CHAT) has already built the foundation for Portland Street Response; and 3) it follows the directive to keep this program separate from police.