PROTEC17 continues to grow! In late September, we officially welcomed our newest members from Portland Street Response (PSR) to our union! Peer Support Specialists and Mental Health Crisis Responders voted unanimously to join PROTEC17, with the City of Portland voluntarily recognizing the group. 

Portland Street Response (PSR) was created in February 2021 as a way to provide an additional, compassionate, and un-armed first response option when 911 is called for people suffering with mental health and behavioral health challenges. The program initially started in the Lents neighborhood, which at the time, was not widely supported by other resources and services, and experienced a high call volume. After its initial success there — which included a 4.6% reduction in calls traditionally dispatched to police, as well as a 22.5% reduction in police response on non-emergency welfare checks — the program expanded to surrounding areas, and then went citywide in March 2022. 

The PSR program is housed under Portland Fire and Rescue’s new Community Health Division due to its connection to the 911 network. Additionally, PSR has partnered with Portland State University’s Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative for program data and evaluation. 

While there are 15 new members on the PSR team, calls are far exceeding initial expectations and the program is looking to hire more responders – potentially up to 25 more by the end of the year. Right now, services are available daily, but during set hours. The program hopes to expand to a 24-hour service once City funding is fully established in the 2023 fiscal year. 

As for why the group decided to join PROTEC17, it’s simple: support and solidarity – by sticking together, their voices will be heard at the bargaining table and beyond. 

“Everyday, we go to bat for our clients who are some of the most vulnerable members of the community,” said Zeke Martin-Brunkhart, a Peer Support Specialist. “It’s an honor to do this work, and it’s only fair that we have a seat at the table when it comes to how we get things done and how we are treated in return.” 

“We are super excited to be joining other organized workers at PROTEC17 who share our values around equity and share our commitment to service,” Martin- Brunkhart continued. 

PROTEC17 is proud to represent PSR employees who work on the frontlines to help the most vulnerable members of the City of Portland community. Please join us in welcoming them to our union! 

If you know of employees in your workplace who want to form a union, reach out to Jessica Olivas at jessica@protec17. org or 800-783-0017 ext. 122.