On September 1, 2021, the City of Madison launched its Community Alternative Response for  Emergency Services (CARES) Team to respond to nonviolent 911 calls for mental health  emergencies. The City announced that CARES Teams, made up of community paramedics and  crisis workers, would spend a year learning and innovating before expanding the program in future budgets.  

“As we mark six months of discovery and innovation with this important alternative response  team, I am pleased to announce that the CARES Team is now responding to mental health  emergencies on a City-wide basis,” said Mayor Rhodes-Conway. “We will continue to evaluate  the effectiveness of CARES and to expand the program over time.” 

The project launched out of Fire Station 3 on Williamson Street to focus on the downtown area, where most call originate. CARES Teams, which operate during peak hours of 11a.m.-7 p.m., quickly discovered that they had the capacity to broaden their service area outside of the  downtown area, and are now responding City-wide, based on availability.  

The City can report that CARES Teams have responded to 246 calls for service as of March 11,  2022. The average time on call was 53 minutes. In the absence of the CARES program, these calls  would have received a police response. Instead, these calls were fielded by CARES Teams, freeing  up police time and resources for criminal activity.  

CARES Teams bring a patient-centered approach to their efforts. They help to de-escalate mental  health crises, provide treatment on scene, connect patients with appropriate mental health or  medical services in the community, and divert patients from hospitals and jails. 

“CARES has been having a lot of success responding to emergency calls and learning about our  patients as they progress,” said Alder Arvina Martin. “Fifty-two percent of patients were men, 43 percent women. Sixty-seven percent of patients were white, 14 percent Black, 3 percent Latinx,  and 3 percent Asian–reflecting the diversity of our community.”  

The City has hired a program manager for CARES who is operating out of Public Health Madison  Dane County. The City is also experimenting on the use of fire vehicles with lights and sirens(Ford 

Interceptors) to shorten response times. The CARES program intends to expand with an  additional team later this year.  

Mental health emergencies involving violence or the potential for violence continue to receive a  response from the Madison Police Department. All Madison police officers receive  comprehensive mental health/crisis intervention training and can connect people to services and  effectuate Emergency Detentions when needed. The department also employs six Mental Health  Officers with additional expertise to help divert those experiencing acute mental health crisis  from the criminal justice system.


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