Alternatives to calling 911 in Philadelphia

alternatives 911 philadelphia
Two behavioral health specialists from SEPTA’s Saving a Vulnerable Entity (SAVE) co-responder program direct someone to services and treatment at Kensington’s PAD Offices on May 19, 2021. (Photo by Erin Blewett)

Inspired by Kensington residents from Resolve Philly’s Sound OFF.

With information from Don’t Call the Police, Philly Alt. to 911, and DBHIDS. Contributions from Olga Hernandez and Evan Figueroa-Vargas.

To jump down to the resources section, click here.

Policing in Philadelphia

Philadelphia residents are more concerned about public safety than they have been in a decade.

In a summer 2020 survey for The Pew Charitable Trusts, respondents listed “public safety” as the city’s top issue, with a little less than half of the 1,025 city residents surveyed saying they felt safe outside at night — at 49% this is the lowest figure Pew has recorded in over 10 years of polling. 

These concerns come at a time when discussions about the Philadelphia Police Department’s (PPD) role in systemic racism and how the police respond to behavioral and mental health crises are at the forefront of city politics. Especially following the police killing of West Philly resident Walter Wallace Jr., who was experiencing a mental health crisis when he was shot and killed by police officers last October.

In Kensington, the majority of residents are people of color, and residents are more likely to experience mental health issues and poor quality of clinical care than in other neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Additionally, the neighborhood is one where many of the city’s shootings occur. Police in Kensington are tasked with responding to violent crimes and issues related to mental health, homelessness, and substance use. Those issues are intensified by the housing and overdose crises in the neighborhood.

Francis Healy, the special advisor to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, said the police department has been tasked over the years with more responsibility due to police being available 24/7, and that some emergencies may be better addressed through a behavioral health approach, reported WHYY.

alternatives 911 philadelphia
SEPTA police officers with the SAVE co-responder program work alongside behavioral health specialists to connect individuals to resources and treatment in Kensington. (Photo by Erin Blewett)

In October 2020, the city implemented a 911 Triage and Co-Responder Program to better identify and respond to behavioral health crisis calls. As part of the 911 Triage, behavioral specialists will work with 911 operators to determine the most appropriate response to crisis calls. For the co-responder program, police officers and behavioral health specialists work together to connect individuals experiencing behavioral health crises or issues related to substance use to treatment, while also responding to emergency response calls alongside the police.

In the East Police Division, which serves Fairhill, Harrowgate, and Kensington, the Police-Assisted Diversion (PAD) program and co-responder programs have offices at 707-711 E. Allegheny Ave. There, police officers, co-responders, and office staff connect people to behavioral health, substance use disorder, and housing services. Anyone can access those services at Kensington’s PAD Offices, Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m.

Read more: 2021 Opioid Response Unit Action Plan: Here are the solutions the city will implement in Kensington

alternatives 911 philadelphia
Anyone can access those services at Kensington’s PAD Offices, Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. (Photo by Erin Blewett)

Alternatives to 911 and traditional policing

Despite these new initiatives, calling the police may not always be the best option for certain emergencies. For example, when experiencing a situation that may benefit from a non-police approach, like a behavioral health crisis, cases of domestic abuse, resources for LGBTQ+ residents, and information for undocumented immigrants or people with limited English proficiency. 

Kensington Voice’s sister publication, Germantown Info Hub, also released a resource guide for mental and behavioral health services, resources for communities experiencing trauma, and alternatives to calling 911.

If you are in immediate danger and feel safe calling 9-1-1, please do. 

This list won’t be able to address every emergency situation that you may face but provides alternatives to requesting emergency help outside of the traditional emergency response system. This list also provides non-emergency resources to cover emergencies and issues that may not be addressed by police.

Know a resource we didn’t include? Send us an email at editors@kensingtonvoice.com or message us on social at @KensingtonVoice, and we’ll add it as soon as possible.

General non-emergency services

Philly 311

  • 311 is the city’s phone number for non-emergency situations, like reporting graffiti, illegal dumping, abandoned cars, or potholes in your community. 
  • To access Philly 311:
    • Call 311 or 215-686-8686
    • Download the Philly 311 app on App Store or Google Play
    • Philly 311 is required to provide you with free interpretation services, so if you need a language interpreter, you can request one after connecting to the operator.

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Mental health emergency services

Behavioral Health Crisis Response Centers

  • North Philadelphia
    • Crisis Response Center at Temple University Hospital – Episcopal Campus (Open 24 hours)
      • Call 215-707-2577 to speak to a Crisis Response Center representative.
      • Walk-in patients are advised to enter through the emergency room at 100 E. Lehigh Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19125.
    • Crisis Response Center at Einstein Medical Center (Open 24 hours)
      • Call 215-951-8300 for urgent care advice.
      • Walk-in patients are advised to enter through the emergency department at 5501 Old York Road, Philadelphia, Pa. 19141. According to the hospital’s website, patients should tell the security guard that they would like to be seen at the Crisis Response Center on the third floor.
    • Crisis Response Center at Friends Hospital (Open 24 hours)
      • Call 800-889-0548 (toll-free) or 215-831-4600 (local number)
      • The center is located at the rear of the campus (follow the signs) at 4641 Roosevelt Blvd, Philadelphia, Pa. 19124
  • Center City, Old City, and South Philadelphia

View a map with locations, here.

Children’s Crisis Response Centers

  • Philadelphia Children’s Crisis Response Center (Open 24 hours)
    • This facility provides crisis services for children and young adults ages 3-17 who are experiencing a mental health crisis. 
    • To learn more or contact the facility, click here.
    • Visit 3300 Henry Ave., Falls Center 2, Suite 3N, Philadelphia, Pa. 19129

View a map with locations, here.

Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) 

Crisis Text Line (24/7)

  • The Crisis Text Line provides free 24-hour mental and behavioral health support via text message.
  • Text HOME to 741741.
  • To learn more about the Crisis Text Line, go here

BlackLine (24/7)

  • Call or text the hotline at 1-800-604-5841
  • BlackLine is a mental health support and counseling hotline geared toward Black, Brown, Native, Muslim, and Black LGBTQI communities. To learn more about BlackLine, go here

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (24/7)

  • Call 1-800-273-8255
  • You can find more resources from the Lifeline here.

Veterans Crisis Line (24/7)

  • Call 1-800-273-8255
  • You can find more resources from the Crisis Line here.

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Non-emergency mental health services

Community Behavioral Health

  • This non-emergency hotline service provides referrals to treatment, counseling, and other mental health services. Community Behavioral Health is a division of DBHIDS. To learn more, go here.
    • For the 24/7 Hotline, call 888-545-2600
    • For the Teletype (TTY) number, call: 888-436-7482 

Intellectual disAbility Services 

  • Call 215-685-5900
  • Intellectual Disability Services is a part of DBHIDS. To learn more, go here

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The Hub of Hope, ran by Project HOME, offers services like free coffee, showers, laundry, referrals for case managers, housing services, and more. (Photo by Erin Blewett)

Emergency housing services

  • The Save Your Home Philly Hotline provides legal help with home mortgages, sheriff sales, tangled titles, or mediation scheduled through the Eviction Diversion program. Call 215-334-HOME (4663) Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Outside of these hours, callers can leave a message and get a call back from a PLA advocate

Philly Tenant Hotline

  • The Philly Tenant Union provides a hotline that can help connect residents with free legal service and representation for low-income residents. 
  • Call 267-443-2500
  • To learn more, go here.

Pennsylvania Emergency Shelter Allowance

  • The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services offers up to $400 to help an individual or family who is experiencing homelessness or is close to experiencing homelessness. The funds should be used to stop an eviction or foreclosure of your home or to find a long-term or short-term living space.
  • To apply, contact the Philadelphia County Assistance Office and ask what you need to do to apply for an Emergency Shelter Allowance.
  • Call 215-560-7226 or, if necessary, visit 801 Market St., #6, Philadelphia Pa., 19107

Philadelphia 24/7 Homeless Outreach Line

  • This service provides placement into a shelter, emergency housing, or a living program any time of day or night for people experiencing homelessness.
  • Call 215-232-1984

Prevention, Diversion & Intake Unit (24 hours)

This unit from the Office of Homeless Services helps Philadelphians with an assessment to see if they qualify for homelessness prevention and diversion services such as emergency shelter or temporary housing; financial help with rent, move-in costs, and utilities; mediation, counseling, and problem-solving; and stranded traveler’s assistance.

There are three ways Philadelphians can get in touch with city intake social workers and case managers to discuss the emergency housing services listed above. Due to high volume, it may take 72 hours to receive a callback. Completing the online form or calling the Homeless Prevention hotline can be done at any time. Visiting a city-funded intake center in-person is only available during a center’s business hours, which are posted below and categorized by daytime and after hours.

  • Complete an online form.
  • Call the Homelessness Prevention Hotline at (215) 686-7177 and follow the instructions.
  • Visit a city-funded intake center in person.
    • Daytime in-take: (Mon. to Fri., from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
      • Apple Tree Family Center, 1430 Cherry St. (Center City), 215-686-7150
      • Roosevelt Darby Center, 804 N. Broad St. (North Philly), 215- 685-3700
    • After hours in-take: (Everynight, including holidays and weekends, from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.)
      • For Families:
        • Red Shield Family Residence, 715 N. Broad St., 215- 787-2887
      • For single men:
        • Station House, 2601 N. Broad Street, rear entrance, 215- 225-9230
      • For single women:
        • Gaudenzia’s House of Passage, 111 N. 49th St., at the corner of 48th St. and Haverford Ave., entrance on 48th Street, 267-713-7778

Hub of Hope – Project HOME (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday)

  • The Hub of Hope offers services like free coffee, showers, laundry, referrals for case managers, housing services, and more.
  • Call 215-309-5225
  • Visit 1401 Arch St., Philadelphia Pa. 19102 (Lower Level, Suburban Station Concourse)

Sunday Breakfast Mission Emergency Shelter (Men) (Daily intake at 7 p.m., arrive early)

  • Sunday Breakfast provides free daily meals and emergency shelter service for up to 30 days to men experiencing homelessness.
  • Call 215-922-6400
  • Visit 302 N. 13th St., Philadelphia Pa. 19107 (use the entrance on Pearl Street).

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Emergency services for people with substance use disorder

SAMHSA 24/7 National Helpline

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers information and referrals to treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations in English and Spanish. The helpline is for people facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
  • Call 1-800-662-4357

Pennsylvania/Philadelphia Drug & Alcohol Office & Helpline

  • For assistance in finding a treatment provider or funding for substance use disorder treatment. Available 24/7 and in both English and Spanish.
    • Call the statewide helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
    • Call the Philadelphia Drug & Alcohol Office at 888-545-2600

Non-emergency services for people with substance use disorders 

DBHIDS Addiction Services (8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday)

  • If you’re not sure what service you require and do not have medical insurance, you can contact the Behavioral Health Special Initiative.
  • Call 215-546-1200
  • If you want treatment for substance use disorder and do have medical assistance or Medicaid, please contact Community Behavioral Health.
    • Call 888-545-2600.

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alternatives 911 philadelphia
Calling the police may not always be the best option for certain emergencies. (Photo by Erin Blewett)

Children, youth, and family emergency services

Philly HopeLine

  • Available to students and families in the School District of Philadelphia. Free mental health counseling, grieving support, emotional wellness, counseling for COVID-19 related losses, and dedicated service hours for LGBTQ+ youth and Spanish speakers.
    • Call or text (1-833-745-4673) 
    • Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Holidays 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Queer and Trans Youth service hours:
    • Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Fridays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Spanish speakers service hours
    • Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
    • Fridays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Covenant House (Open 24 hours)

  • Covenant House Philadelphia provides a 24/7 crisis shelter for youth ages 21 and under in the city. Young people can access consistent meals, counseling, a warm bed, medical care, workforce training, etc. at the crisis shelter.
  • Call 215-951-5411

Youth Emergency Service (YES) (Phone open 24 hours)

  • YES offers immediate housing to youth ages 12-17 experiencing homelessness or unable to live safely with family.
    • Call 215-787-0633 or 1-800-371-SAFE
    • Visit 1526 Fairmount Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19130

Pennsylvania Child Abuse Hotline

  • To report a case of child abuse or neglect to the Department of Human Services: 
    • Call 1-800-932-0313

Philadelphia Children’s Alliance

  • Provides screenings to children for abuse, neglect, and sexual exploitation, as well as, mental health, medical, and counseling services.
    • Call 215-387-9500
    • Visit 300 E. Hunting Park Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19124
  • If you are a parent dealing with a DHS-involved case, call CLS at 215-981-3700.
  • For legal help with child custody, an abusive family home, or another family issue, call the Family Law Hotline, between 9:30 a.m. and 12 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
  • Call 215-981-3838

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LGBTQ+ services & resources

Mazzoni Center (Philadelphia)

  • Located at 1348 Bainbridge Street, the Mazzoni Center offers healthcare, mental health services, testing, and other services for LGBTQ+ residents. 
    • Currently, walk-in appointments are not available. 
    • Call 215‐563‐0658 to schedule an appointment during regular office hours (9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday)
  • If you have an urgent medical need:
    • Call the service line at 570-820-9038 and identify yourself as a Mazzoni Center patient.

Valley Youth House 

  • Pride Host Homes Program provides a safe, dedicated home for 1-6 months, as well as housing counseling, for LGBTQ+ youth ages 18-25 who are experiencing homelessness. 
    • Call 215-925-3180 
    • Visit 1500 Sansom St., Suite 300A, Philadelphia, Pa. 19102

Attic Youth Center

  • A center that provides opportunities for LGBTQ+ youth to develop into healthy, independent, civic-minded adults within a safe and supportive community and promotes the acceptance of LGBTQ+ youth in society.

Colours Organization Inc.

Philly HopeLine’s Queer and Trans Youth Service Hours

  • Available to students and families in the School District of Philadelphia. Free mental health counseling, grieving support, emotional wellness, counseling for COVID-19 related losses, and dedicated service hours for LGBTQ+ youth.
    • Call or text 1-833-745-4673 
  • Queer and Trans Youth Service Hours:
    • Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Fridays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Trevor Project

  • If you are in need of immediate support: 
    • Call 1-866-488-7386 
    • Text: START to 678678
    • Chat online: here

Trans Lifeline’s Hotline

  • A peer support phone service, for trans people by trans people, in emergency and non-emergency situations. When you call, you’ll be speaking with a trans/nonbinary peer operator. 
    • Call 877-565-8860

SAGE’s National LGBT Elder Hotline

  • Provides services to LGBTQ+ people who are 50 and over.
  • Call 877-360-LGBT (5428) 

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Domestic/sexual violence emergency services

24/7 Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline (Women Against Abuse)

  • Call 1-866-723-3014
  • Free, confidential, and anonymous online chat service, click here for more info

24/7 National Human Trafficking Hotline

  • Call 1-888-373-7888
  • Text 233733 
  • Live chat, click here for more info

Women Against Abuse

  • Women Against Abuse provides a variety of services. Their 24/7 emergency safe havens for people of all gender identities and their children who are victims of domestic violence provide up to 90 days of shelter, counseling, case management, meals, and more.
  • 100 S. Broad St., Suite 1341, Philadelphia, Pa. 19102
  • Call 1-866-723-3014

WOAR

  • WOAR provides free crisis counseling and therapy services to children and adults who have experienced sexual violence.
  • Call WOAR’s 24 Hour Hotline 215- 985-3333

Joseph J. Peters Institute

  • Provides adults, children, and teens who experienced sexual assault, human trafficking, or other types of trauma with referrals, mental health counseling, and more.
    • Call 215-701-1560
    • 100 S. Broad Street, 17th Floor, Philadelphia, P.a. 19110 
    • Hours:
      • Monday-Thursday: 8:00 am-8:00 pm
      • Friday: 8:00 am-5:00 pm
      • Saturday: 9:00 am-1:00 pm

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SEPTA’s co-responder unit travels throughout Kensington to connect individuals to services. (Photo by Erin Blewett)

Emergency services for undocumented immigrants or people with limited English proficiency

Citizenship status and medical access

  • People in Philadelphia who are not U.S. citizens will not be denied medical care at City Health Centers or Federally Qualified Health Centers (see listings below).
  • Interpretation services are available at all City Health Centers.
  • To read more about people’s right to medical services in Philadelphia, click here.

City Health Centers

  • Low-cost emergency and non-emergency health care are available to anyone at public hospitals and city health centers, regardless of citizenship status. Interpretation services are available at these locations. The city recommends you call a health center first before visiting to limit the number of people in waiting rooms during the coronavirus pandemic.
    • Health Center 1 – South Philly
      • Walk-in STD Testing & Treatment Only
      • Visit 1930 S. Broad St., Floor 2
      • Call 215-685-6575 or 215-685-6571 before visiting
    • Health Center 2 –  South Philly
      • Visit 1700 S. Broad St., Unit 201
      • Call 215-685-1803 for Medical
      • Call 215-685-1822 for Dental
    • Health Center 3 – West Philly
      • Visit 555 S. 43rd St.
      • Call 215-685-7504 for Medical
      • Call 215-685-7506 for Dental
    • Health Center 4 – West Philly
      • Visit 4400 Haverford Ave.
      • Call 215-685-7601 for Medical 
      • Call 215-685-7605 for Dental 
    • Health Center 5 – Cecil B. Moore
      • Visit 1900 N. 20th St.
      • Call 215-685-2933 for Medical
      • Call 215-685-2938 for Dental
    • Health Center 6 – Fishtown
      • Visit 301 W. Girard Ave.
      • Call 215-685-3803 for Medical
      • Call 215-685-3816 for Dental
    • Health Center 9 – Germantown
      • Visit 131 E. Chelten Ave.
      • Call 215-685-5701 for Medical
      • Call 215-685-5738 for Dental
    • Health Center 10 – Northeast Philly
      • Visit 2230 Cottman Ave.
      • Call 215-685-0639 for Medical
      • Call 215-685-0639 for Dental
    • Strawberry Mansion Health Center
      • Visit 2840 W. Dauphin St.
      • Call 215-685-2401 for Medical

Federally Qualified Health Centers (Community Health Centers) 

  • Federally Qualified Health Centers, such as community health centers and clinics, must provide care to uninsured people regardless of their immigration status. At community health clinics, patients can receive care for free, low-cost, or on a sliding scale based on their income.
  • To see a full list of Federally Qualified Health Centers in the city, click here.

Language Access Philly

  • Every person has the right to access city services and information in the language they need, regardless of residency or citizenship status. City agencies are required to offer translation services to anyone contacting their office. The city also provides interpretation over the phone, in person, and for documents.
    • In a non-emergency, call 311 and ask for an interpreter.
    • In an emergency:
      • Call 911
      • Tell the operator your location and the language you need.
      • The city advises not to hang up while waiting to be connected to an interpreter. 

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Support services for older adults

24/7 Philadelphia Corporation for Aging Helpline (Open 24 hours)

  • To report elder abuse or neglect, call the PCA Helpline.
  • Call 215-765-9040

Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (General Services)

  • To receive assistance with PCA’s non-emergency services for older adults, including resources, food, and housing services.
  • Call 215-765-9000 (office)
  • Visit 642 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19130

24/7 Pennsylvania Protective Services Hotline

  • Call 1-800-490-8505

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  • For legal help, call 215-981-3700.
  • For legal help, call 215-981-3800

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Editors: Zari Tarazona, Claire Wolters, Jillian Bauer-Reese / Designer: Henry Savage

Kensington Voice es una de las más de 20 organizaciones de noticias que producen Broke in Philly, un proyecto colaborativo de información sobre movilidad económica. The Toll: Las raíces y los costos de la violencia armada en Filadelfia, es una serie centrada en soluciones sobre la violencia armada que se extiende a lo largo de 2021. Lea más en brokeinphilly.org o siga en Twitter en @BrokeInPhilly.

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