Leaders of the City of Portland often claim the city does not provide services to people with mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, and that those services are entirely the province of other entities, such as the state, the county, the public health insurers such as CareOregon or Health Share, or private organizations such as hospitals and public clinic.
This is not true. The city provides a variety of support and medical services for people in crisis, and many of them have mental illnesses, addictions, and alcoholism. Each of these services can effectively reduce harm to people with mental illness by police. These include,
- The Civic Life department employs a Mental Health Coordinator.
- The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) had employed a Homeless Community Liaison to coordinate services between agencies and provide training. The vast majority of people who are chronically homeless have untreated mental illness, addiction, alcoholism, or trauma. Homelessness is a natural result of municipalities not providing services to people with those illnesses.
- The Service Coordination Team is a PPB contract with Central City Concern to provide wrap-around services, including medical treatment for people with addiction and mental illness.
- The City provides significant funding for Lines for Life, a agency dedicated to preventing addiction and suicide.
- The City partners with Multnomah County to fund the Navigation Team, which provides direct assistance to people who are chronically homeless.
- The PPB provides extensive training about mental illness in their CIT and ECIT training to officers. Officers are required to have an additional 8 hours of training each year about mental illness.
- The City funds Clean Start PDX which employs people in recovery from addiction and mental illness to remove property from campsites of people who are homeless.
- The City funds the Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program, which in part means to reduce the number of people who are homeless.
- PBOT has an outreach team for people who are homeless and live in vehicles.
- The City funds Portland Street Response which employs a crisis outreach team to help people in crisis – often caused by mental illness, addiction, alcoholism.
- PPB has the Behavioral Health Unit to respond to people in mental illness crisis. The Behavioral Health Unit employs licensed social workers trained to provide crisis care for people with mental illness, addiction, and alcoholism.
- The Mayor’s office made a major grant in 2021 to support development of a new service for people in crisis – the Behavioral Health Emergency Coordination Network.
- The City funds the Joint Office of Homeless Services which provides a variety of support services for people with mental illness, addiction, and alcoholism.
- City ordinances regulate alcohol and marijuana use, sale, and zoning of retail outlets to limit impact and harms to addicts and alcoholics, as well as all other users.
- Until January 2021 the City funded the Sobering Center which provided walk in and drop off services for alcoholics and addicts.
A ballpark estimate of the annual cost to the City of support (and treatment) services for people with mental illness, addiction, and alcoholism is ten to twenty million dollars per year.