Portland Street Response, which launched its pilot program in the Lents neighborhood about nine weeks ago, has seen a nearly 60% increase in its total call volume in the past week.
As WW previously reported, the groundbreaking program, which intends to reduce police interactions with Portlanders experiencing mental health or drug-induced crises, had initially seen a slow trickle of calls: about two per day.
To date, Portland Street Response has responded to 95 calls—a 58% increase from the 60 total calls it had reported as of April 13. The majority of those calls are dispatched by the city’s Bureau of Emergency Communications, which applies a specific triage criteria to determine whether or not to send out PSR’s two-person crisis team consisting of one paramedic and one licensed clinical social worker.
So far this week, the pilot program has responded to 15 calls, according to spokesperson Caryn Brooks. And on Wednesday, during an eight-hour shift, the program’s two-person crisis team responded to six calls—its highest daily call volume to date, Brooks said.
“[The team] said they were back-to-back-to-back, which they were able to handle,” Brooks says about yesterday’s call load. “We are glad we’re getting called out on more dispatches.”
Brooks attributes the increased call volume in part to a “heightened awareness” of the program among community members, as well as staff at BOEC, following the fatal police shooting of Robert Delgado in Lents Park on April 16.
“I think the BOEC dispatchers—who have a lot on their plate, they’re very busy—I think they’re more aware, too. They’re more aware of the community really wanting us to go out on calls, and they want to send us out on calls, too,” Brooks said. “Our team is in a pilot, and so is BOEC. They’re going through the pilot at the same time as we are.”
Portland Street Response is on track to eclipse last month’s call volume, having responded to 42 calls so far in April, compared to 42 total calls in March.
“Everyone who’s participating in this pilot—be it the community, be it our partners in the Police [Bureau], at fire, at BOEC—we’re all learning as we go and evolving it and really fine-tuning this program to make it the best that we can,” Brooks said.