A Portland Program Intended to Reduce Police Interactions With People in Crisis Is Off to a Slow Start

The Portland Street Response program sends a paramedic and social worker on non-emergency calls, often involving mental health crises, instead of sending police. The pilot project, operating during weekday hours in one neighborhood, was assigned 60 calls in its first 40 business days. That tiny percentage of 911 calls falls short of expectations, possibly because dispatchers' screening of calls is defined too narrowly, or because dispatchers are being protective of the police. Supporters say the program always was meant to start small and deliberately, but its call volume is averaging much less than planned.

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