Mental Health Liaison/Officer Programs
The Madison Police Department has a longstanding commitment to partnering with mental health providers in order to improve services to those with mental illnesses. Beginning in the mid 1980's, our department dedicated a full-time sergeant position to serve as a liaison to Journey Mental Health Center and other agencies. Building upon that early foundation, our response has evolved and expanded over the years to employ a multifaceted approach to these issues.
Beginning in 2004 and in keeping with our decentralized model of service, we established our Mental Health Liaison Program. This program is the core of our formal Specialized Policing Response (SPR). The Mental Health Liaison Program consists of selected volunteer officers who serve as liaisons representing each of our 5 districts. The Program Coordinator and the various liaison officers work collaboratively with mental health providers, advocates, and consumers to provide individual response plans and follow up, address system issues/concerns, share information internally and externally as appropriate, and if possible respond to mental health calls for service when they arise.
In 2015, the Madison Police Department added 5 full-time officers to better serve individuals living with a mental illness. Mental Health Officers address both district-specific and citywide systems issues related to mental health. These officers work with consumers, advocates, family members, case managers, and mental health providers, to support people with mental illness in the community and divert them from the criminal justice system whenever possible. In their full-time capacity, Mental Health Officers take the work of our part-time volunteer Mental Health Liaisons a step further to more consistently support patrol officers, work with partner agencies, attend community meetings, conduct home visits, create individual coordinated response plans, assist in developing and implementing training/educational initiatives, and conduct follow-up in an effort to prevent mental health crises from emerging.
Because it is impossible to predict when and where a mental health crisis may erupt, the Madison Police Department trains each and every officer to respond to persons with mental illness who are in crisis with compassion, to utilize appropriate communication/de-escalation and stabilization skills, and to work collaboratively toward an effective resolution.
Given that we conduct our own training academy, we are able to tailor our training topics to best suit the needs of our community/department and to a degree that far exceeds minimum certification standards. All officers receive approximately 60 hours of crisis management and mental health related training during the course of the pre-service academy. In addition, all officers receive ongoing in-service training in this area. With the caliber of our recruiting and training standards, and the emphasis placed on these issues, the Mental Health Liaison/Officer Programs serve to further supplement our overall response with a specialized approach and provides added support to first-responding officers before, during, and after any mental health crisis occurs.
In conjunction with fellow district patrol officers, the Mental Health Liaison Officers and the full-time Mental Health Officers work within and across districts to provide a coordinated, consistent, and collaborative response to persons with mental illness.
In an effort to expand the knowledge base for law enforcement agencies interested in starting or enhancing a specialized policing response (SPR), the Council of State Governments Justice Center in conjunction with the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), selected six agencies to serve as law enforcement/mental health "learning sites." The six agencies chosen represent a strong collaborative effort between law enforcement and mental health agencies and will serve as centers for peer-to-peer learning and support.
Learn more about the Criminal Justice / Mental Health Learning Sites Project.