The city of Denver, Colorado is expanding their Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) Program after a successful pilot in 2020. More funding is budgeted to increase the number of teams, provide staffing for longer hours per day, seven days a week, and cover more of the city.
The STAR program sends teams of EMTs and Behavioral Health Clinicians to “engage individuals experiencing crises related to mental health issues, poverty, homelessness, and substance abuse.”
Last week St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones and U.S. Rep. Cori Bush visited Denver to learn more about STAR. “I wanted to see a response model that did not involve officers and see how that was set up,” Mayor Jones said.
Denver’s initiative … eliminates the police response to a call or having officers as backup. “The goal of the program was to get a better outcome for these calls,” Denver police Chief Paul Pazen told the [St. Louis] Post-Dispatch on Friday. “This is not a ‘defund the police’ type of program. This is an ‘and’ to police, not an ‘or.’This is enhancing the type of responses to get a better outcomes and free up emergency services and law enforcement.“
U.S. Representative Cori Bush (D-MO) was joined by Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) in introducing the People’s Response Act.
“Public safety is a public health issue. It’s time our approach reflects that,” said Rep. Cori Bush. “The People’s Response Act will transform public safety into a system of care rather than criminalization, healing rather than incarceration, and prevention rather than policing. We are safer when our communities are well funded, our people are healthy and housed, and our children have nutritious meals, excellent schools, and green spaces to play in.”
H.R. 4194 is co-sponsored by 20 Congress members so far, including Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR). It is endorsed by over 70 organizations, including the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Sunrise Movement, and others.
This is the 2nd piece of national legislation that would mandate using non-police first responders for mental health crises. Senator Wyden (D-OR) introduced the CAHOOTS Act last year. S. 4441 is co-sponsored by Sen. Merkley (D-OR) and 2 others.
The Mayor’s proposed budget only funds an expansion of the current Lents pilot to support an additional team. We need to see a commitment to continue to build Portland Street Response city-wide, by supporting the $4.2 budget proposed by Portland Fire and Rescue.
Make your voices heard! Here are three steps to take:
Subject: Please fund Portland Street Response to expand city-wide
The Mayor’s proposed budget only funds an expansion of the current Lent’s pilot to support an additional team. We need to see a commitment to continue to build Portland Street Response city-wide, by supporting the $4.2 budget proposed by Portland Fire and Rescue.
Excerpts from The Guardian, Thu 29 Apr 2021 11.00 EDT:
Community leaders developed a proposal that would reroute all calls regarding homeless issues to the Compassionate Alternate Response Team (CART), highly trained civilians tasked with de-escalation and conflict resolution through each situation.
Proponents of CART estimate that the team would cost San Francisco $6.8m a year. The Board of Supervisors has already approved $2m. The other $4.8m would come from the police department’s budget.
Write city council members and the Portland Police Association (PPA) demanding that PPA cede any claims on Portland Street Response labor. This is not police work.
We need to make these demands because the pilot program for Portland Street Response only launched after the police union allowed it, declaring last year that it “retains its collective bargaining rights over any implementation of the Portland Street Response program beyond the pilot program.”
Send letters or make calls to make these demands clear. Please let both PPA and City Council know that our community overwhelmingly supports the Portland Street Response approach, and that our community’s well-being should never be a bargaining chip. Now the PPA is in contract negotiations, the city must hold firm to its authority over the future of PSR.
Additionally, Portland Street Response must not be used as another bargaining chip for PPA. Unite Oregon is helping lead a campaign to ensure other items favored by the community, such as the new system for oversight that voters approved, are not negotiated away. Read about it here.
Street Roots commissioned a survey with McKelvey Consulting to assess the public perceptions around crises response in the Portland metro area. More than 400 random registered Portland voters consented to the survey via a text-enabled phone number. The survey was conducted March 9 and 10, with a 67% response rate. Of the respondents, more than 10% identified as a person of color. Respondents were asked a series of questions on their preferences between police and non-police responses, and who were best equipped to respond to situations of crisis.
Here are some questions and responses, which show an overwhelming support for programs like Portland Street Response:
The city launched the Portland Street Response program on February 16. It is in a pilot phase, limited to the Lents neighborhood. We want to see the pilot completed, and the program expanded.
The city’s Portland Street Response program is finally real! They have staff, staff is going through training, pilot coverage area and times have been named, and there is a timeline for the next phases! There is even an official City website for the program — click on the button in our banner to visit them and find out more.
Thank you to all who have supported Street Roots’ advocacy — you all helped us get this far. We have received endorsements from:
11 current or former elected officials, from city to local to state level;
13 faith communities;
27 businesses; and
Going forward, we will maintain this website to continue advocating for the City to see this program through as well as possible.
Here are excerpts from Kaia Sand’s editorial in this week’s edition of Street Roots:
Mayor Ted Wheeler is protecting the police budget while cutting a portion of the Portland Street Response budget.
Commissioner Chloe Eudaly has already said she’s voting for Hardesty’s proposal to trim PPB further. It’s time to put pressure on Wheeler, Commissioner Dan Ryan and Commissioner Amanda Fritz to support the change as well, in the interest of public safety.
Senator Ron Wyden has proposed a national alternative to using police as first responders to mental health crises. The CAHOOTS Act is modeled after Eugene’s eponymous program, operated by the White Bird Clinic. CAHOOTS is also the inspiration for Portland Street Response. The nation-wide program would provide 95% Medicaid match for local municipalities that implement such a program.
OREGONLIVE.com / The Oregonian reports that
Cahoots fields about 20% of all calls to 911 and the non-emergency line in the greater Eugene area.
In 2018, of the 22,000 calls that Cahoots responded to, less than 150 led to Cahoots requesting police for backup.
Program leaders estimate it saves $7 million annually in medical costs because the so many of the people the non-police teams help would otherwise end up in emergency rooms.