Office of Community Health and Safety
The Office of Community Health and Safety (OCHS), housed in the Mayor’s Office. was established in 2020 and began operating in earnest in 2021. OCHS operates under the codirection of the Department of Public Safety and Office of the Mayor. OCHS 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. However, the actual execution and effectiveness of the work that OCHS is tasked with has been challenged by a lack of coordination with the county, which historically has had jurisdiction for providing the social services to which OCHS has been tasked with directing resources. The lack of coordination that exists between OCHS and the county is a product largely of the division of city and county government. Given this, and the $5 million budget increase in this office for next year, the incoming administration may wish to reconsider whether this belongs in the already funded county health department.
Public safety agencies, like the OCHS, 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-emergency calls involving mental and behavioral health conditions, homelessness and substance use. While first responders have adapted to these circumstances, OCHS recognizes that the complex needs of individuals can only be met when the right responder is sent to assist them.
To change this paradigm, the OCHS 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.
More about the Office of Community Health and Safety
Below is a list of content in the Office of Community Health and Safety's Transition Brief (prepared by Thomas Consulting Group for The Pittsburgh Foundation).
MORE ABOUT THE OFFICE