A Madison pilot program that sends paramedics and crisis workers to mental health emergencies in lieu of police is now answering calls citywide as officials hope to expand the alternative to law enforcement in the months ahead.
CARES — for Community Alternative Response for Emergency Services — has nearly doubled its number of responses to nonviolent mental health calls since launching in September, Deputy Mayor Katie Crawley said in a statement. In total, CARES teams, which consist of one paramedic and a Journey Mental Health crisis worker, responded to 246 calls as of mid-March, Crawley said. The average call time was 53 minutes.
Ché Stedman, an assistant fire chief and CARES supervisor, said the program continues to collect data and is still evaluating how it measures its success. The program tracks how many people it refers to social services, Stedman said, though the program’s success can be measured in other ways, such as decreases in arrests and emergency room transits.