MADISON, Wisconsin (WMTV) – After more than a year of preparation, the city of Madison is set to change the way it responds to 911 calls regarding mental health.
CARES, or Community Alternative Response Emergency Services, is a program slated to launch in late August, according to the Madison Fire Department.
Che Stedman, deputy chief of medical affairs, said that as part of the 911 pilot, operators can choose to send an emergency worker from the Journey Mental Health Center alongside a community paramedic from the fire department.
While paramedics are already trained “to some level” to deal with mental health crises, Stedman said community paramedics will get additional training, including one from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Currently, he explained, “Law enforcement is the first person to be sent on these appeals, so that’s kind of what we see as a more appropriate response when it comes to behavioral health and health. mental. “
Stedman continued, if the situation is violent or involves weapons, law enforcement will always be on the job.
The city passed a resolution in July 2020 that created the pilot.
“We want to make sure that individuals get the resources they need and that we can turn away from the criminal justice system,” District 11 alder Arvina Martin told NBC15 in June 2020.
According to Stedman, the pair of CARES program sponsors will not be getting into ambulances, which may seem “intimidating.” He said they will be in vans that will have the program logo on them.
After a scheduled August 23 launch date, Stedman said the end of the pilot had not been determined. He said the program will need to be evaluated upon receipt of data.
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