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C.A.R.E.S. Program An Additional Resource for Behavioral Health Emergencies

A new initiative designed to provide alternative emergency response for individuals who are in crisis is set to launch next week. The Madison Fire Department’s Community Alternative Response Emergency Services (CARES) team will begin responding to 911 calls effective September 1, 2021.

Modeled after successful patient-centered programs like the STAR program in Denver, Colorado and CAHOOTS in Eugene, Oregon, CARES consists of two response teams comprised of one Madison Fire community paramedic and one Journey Mental Health crisis worker. These teams are trained and equipped to respond to non-violent behavioral health emergency calls that do not require law enforcement.

By September 1, the CARES teams will have completed more than 170 hours of extensive training over the course of two months. This curriculum included 40-hour crisis intervention training through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), cultural competency training, de-escalation training, suicide prevention and risk assessment, trauma-informed care, and more, exceeding the standard in behavioral health training for paramedics. Journey Mental Health crisis workers have been trained on dispatch radio protocol and 911 response, as well as other Madison Fire Department policies and operating procedures. Additionally, the CARES teams have been building relationships throughout the community at local resource centers, shelters, and mental health care facilities.

The CARES initiative will be headquartered at Fire Station 3 on Williamson Street. Their uniform will be more casual than that of other first responders you may see in your neighborhood, but they will always have credentials clearly visible. Their response vehicle is a grey Chrysler Pacifica minivan branded with the CARES logo.

CARES is designed to serve as an additional available resource for behavioral health emergencies that occur in our community. A cornerstone of the initiative is to ensure that medical and behavioral healthcare is integrated at the onset of crisis intervention, increasing patient satisfaction while diverting people away from emergency rooms and jails.

During this early phase of the initiative, the CARES teams will be in service 40 hours per week (weekdays, 11:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.) responding to calls in the central district.


Health & Safety