Instead of a police officer, a counselor responds to those in mental health crisis. That’s the idea at the heart of Portland Street Response.
Portland’s having a budget battle over plans to go city- wide with the program.
City commissioners originally funded $4.8 million dollars for launching it, with a small pilot version in the Lents neighborhood. Most of that money, $3.6 million is unspent. Supporters like commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty want to use the money for a city wide expansion to cover expenses like hiring staff and buying equipment. She tells news partner KGW: “The community is just thirsty for Portland Street Response.”
She says without the funding, “We wouldn’t be able to buy additional vehicles, we wouldn’t be able to start training staff. So we have an opportunity to collectively make sure that the budget reflects our values.”
But Mayor Ted Wheeler wants to hold the money back until more data is in on how well the program works.
He is proposing almost a million dollars in the budget starting in July, to keep the pilot program going in Lents. Then he says city leaders will look at data before deciding whether to expand it city-wide. In principle, he agrees with the idea behind the program. “We all agree that the police are being sent to interventions that they should not be sent to.”