Chair Vega Pederson, Mayor Wheeler, Governor Kotek Announce Expanded Outreach Program in Central City

News Article
The program will be expanded at the request of Unified Command of the tri-government fentanyl emergency

Governor Tina Kotek, Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler on Wednesday, April 10 announced a partnership with Mental Health & Addiction Association of Oregon (MHAAO) and law enforcement to expand a successful outreach and response program in Portland’s Central City. The program expansion is at the request of the Unified Command of the tri-government fentanyl emergency.

"Moving forward with this critical pilot is a perfect example of the tri-government, nonprofit and community partnership we need to change what's happening on our streets," said Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson. "Multnomah County is proud to be funding this model that actively addresses people in crisis with outreach and resources."

The program’s first year will cost approximately $683,000 and is funded equally by the State of Oregon, Multnomah County, and City of Portland. These investments will fund a lease at Mercy Corps’ downtown Portland headquarters to create a central hub to coordinate outreach services that will operate for a full calendar year once approved by Multnomah County and the City of Portland. 

The partnership between MHAAO and the Portland Police Bureau’s Bike Squad (PPB) launched in December of last year as a pilot and saw early success. Unified Command, along with PPB and MHAAO identified the continued need and expansion of this program as well as the need for a long-term space to house program operations. 

The pilot brought addiction recovery providers and Portland area law enforcement together to save lives to help some of our community’s most vulnerable people: those who are living outside, struggling with addiction, and suffering from unmet behavioral health needs. Providers work with law enforcement to help secure culturally competent services, treatment, and shelter in real time. 

“This program embodies the kind of collaboration and urgency the fentanyl emergency was intended to promote,” said Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. “The partnership between PPB’s Bike Squad and MHAAO has helped build relationships with people where they are, connect them with appropriate resources, and literally save lives. I am so pleased to help expand this pilot and support this critical work going forward.”

Pilot partners include: the Portland Police Central Neighborhood Response Team Bike Squad, Health Justice Recovery Alliance outreach workers, addiction service providers, including MHAAO peer program, staff from the Behavioral Health Resource Center (BHRC), BHRC Van and Outreach teams, Joint Office of Homeless Services Navigation Team, the Prime+ Program, and other community Measure 110 Behavioral Health Resource Network providers, such as Recovery Works, NW, Miracles and NW Instituto Latino. 

“We asked Unified Command to leverage enhanced coordination to break the mold and bring new ideas that can outlast the 90-day emergency,” Governor Kotek said. “This is a tangible result that has the potential to be a model for other regions. I commend the County, City and all of the partners that made this possible.” 

The expanded program builds on the success of a pilot effort started in December 2023 and includes the following:

  • Four MHAAO peer support specialist-outreach team members;
  • One program data analyst/project coordinator;
  • A vehicle to support outreach efforts; and
  • A coordination facility using leased space from Mercy Corps.

“Through this pilot program, MHAAO peer support outreach teams have been able to work collaboratively with law enforcement to connect individuals who are experiencing addiction and mental health issues to the available services they want and need,” said Janie Gullickson, MHAAO executive director. “We look forward to working in partnership with all facets of our community to take this outreach program to the next level."