Madison Police Department seeing increase in mental health-related calls

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- The Madison Police Department has been seeing an increase in mental health-related calls in recent years, according to the Madison Police Mental Health Unit 2018 Annual Report.

A unit of specially trained officers, called the Mental Health Unit, responds to calls involving mental-health crises or incidents.

"Our unit is a unit that focuses mostly on mental health related calls," said Officer Casey Amoroso with the Mental Health Unit. "Our unit comprises of six mental health officers, a sergeant, a captain, and over 30 mental health liaisons.”

Amoroso said the unit works to foster relationships with the people and families they work with so they can best respond to calls.

"Having that background knowledge on these families and on these people, it allows us to build familiarity with them," she said. "We know their situation and we’re able to pass along the history that we’ve built with them to other officers so that we’re not just going in cold. We’re able to better respond to say somebody who already has a plan in place, that way we’re not remaking the wheel so to speak.”

The unit, and the Madison Police Department as a whole, have been responding to an increasing number of mental health calls.

According to the Madison Police Mental Health Unit 2018 Annual Report, in 2018, about 10% of MPD's cases were mental health-related. In 2017, 9.4% of cases were mental health-related, and in 2016 that number was 8.6%.

"Definitely looking for additional growth," Amoroso said. "The more people that we can get plugged in, getting the additional training on how to best serve these individuals, is going to be better for our unit as a whole in the future."

That training includes crisis intervention training, scenario based training, and de-escalation techniques. Amoroso also said the officers work with mental health professionals and providers, as well as families impacted by mental health.

"We never claim to be mental health providers," she said. "We're not clinicians, we're not therapists, we're definitely not psychiatrists. We are there as an aid."