CARES team responds to nearly 40 mental health 911 calls in first month
The program launched on September 1 as an alternative emergency response option.
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A new mental health response program is showing signs of early success.
The Community Alternative Response Emergency Services team launched on September 1.
In its first month, the CARES team has responded to 37 mental health 911 calls. They anticipate they can handle an average of three calls per day moving forward.
The two teams of two are made up of a paramedic and a Journey Mental Health crisis worker.
“We bring different skill sets to the table and sort of complement each other,” said Mark Norton, a paramedic on the CARES team.
He says he’s received a positive response so far.
“It’s really been just figuring out where we can fit in with that and how we can help people,” said Norton.
The teams are stationed at Fire Station 3 in downtown Madison. Assistant Chief Che Stedman says the teams of two average about three calls a day.
There’s only been one incident where the CARES team had to call for police back-up after a situation escalated.
Journey Mental Health Crisis worker Shequila Galvez says the CARES team response targets both physical and mental health.
“Physical well-being can impact behavioral and mental health and vice versa,” said Galvez. “Having a whole team that focuses on the whole person physically, mentally, and emotionally delivers a greater care to whoever is in need.”
The CARES team drive in a marked but discreet minivan and wear more casual clothing. Galvez says this is in an effort to appear approachable.
“We don’t show up with lights and sirens,” said Galvez. “Even if we respond with police or fire, there’s still a gravitation toward the CARES team from people because we’re not in uniform and we show up independently.”
Norton and Galvez says they believe it’s a benefit to provide another option for those who dial 911.
“It can be like one of the worst days of your life and you have to call 911,” said Norton. “Being able to take the time with people and let them get calm and get centered, we try to be patient and present with them.”
Galvez says the program allows them to follow up with people they’ve helped.
“Removing as many barriers to service as possible is really just the best part about the job,” said Galvez. “Being able to just piece those pieces together and get everybody connected to whatever services they want, need, and are willing to accept.”
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