The Office of Community Health and Safety was established to address longstanding health, safety, and justice issues in the City of Pittsburgh. The office is tasked with redirecting city resources to better address community needs by housing social services, public health, and social work experts who can assist community members and first responders in situations that require longer-term support, harm reduction approaches, and other services.
Public Safety agencies serve as a safety net for individuals with complex health and social needs. Police officers, paramedics, EMTs, and firefighters spend a significant portion of time responding to non-emergent calls involving mental and behavioral health conditions, homelessness, and substance use. While first responders have adapted to these circumstances, we recognize that the complex needs individuals can only be met when we send the right responder to assist them.
In order to change this paradigm, the Office of Community Health and Safety is developing programs that properly address individuals’ health and safety needs, guided by evidence-based practices and community input. This includes hiring social workers, outreach workers, and other professionals to connect residents with services that will provide long-term support and address the root causes of the challenges that they face.
This office operates under the co-direction of the Department of Public Safety and Office of the Mayor. The goals and directives of the office are to:
- Develop community health and safety priorities and programs based on community input and areas of need most frequently encountered by community members and Public Safety personnel.
- Establish a group of community health and safety advisors, made up of public health leaders, to advise, educate, and inform on best practices for sustainable social and health support in city programs, policies and legislation.
- Conduct regular trainings with all public safety personnel designed in collaboration between staff, experts and communities to ensure first responders are prepared to appropriately engage with complex situations that may require additional harm reduction support.
- Collaborate with higher education programs throughout the city to provide training opportunities for social work students to help respond to community needs.