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Mental Health Unit


Our Mission

The mission of the Madison Police Department Mental Health Unit is to provide a coordinated, professional and compassionate police response to individuals affected by mental illness and their families. The Mental Health Unit works collaboratively with partner agencies to achieve improved outcomes for individuals affected by mental illnesses or suffering a crisis by connecting them to needed services and diverting them away from the criminal justice system whenever possible. The goals of the Mental Health Unit are to improve safety for officers and all members of the community and reduce calls for police service related to mental health crises.

Our Values

  • Problem solving: We believe in identifying the underlying issues creating police calls and reducing them.
  • Collaboration: We engage with partners from across the government, civil society, families and consumers to improve systems, relationships, and outcomes.
  • Diversion: We aim to reduce the involvement of criminal justice in mental health issues and the criminalization of mental illness.
  • Professional development: We seek increased knowledge and expertise within the unit and to share our knowledge and experience with the department at large.

First Responders: Quality Service Begins With Our Training

The foundation of MPD’s overall mental health programing is our well-trained workforce. The training that all MPD officers receive in our in-house, pre-service academy on mental health and behavioral health crisis topics surpasses the national standard for specialist mental health officers. The high quality of our training is crucial, because MPD officers assigned to Patrol Services are the first responders to a great number of crises and incidents that are related to mental health concerns. MPD officers are trained to conduct thorough investigations and make observations of behaviors, signs, and symptoms that may suggest mental health as a contributing factor. Our pre-service curriculum incorporates a panel of persons with lived experiences, presentations from clinicians and community partners, and scenario-based training.

Officers are also trained to communicate and consult with our community partner, Journey Mental Health. Journey staffs a 24/7 crisis line for the general public; and they evaluate patients to identify mental illness, assess risk, and determine the appropriate level of care needed for individuals experiencing a crisis.

Mental Health Liaison Officers: Broadening Our Unit’s Reach

Our Mental Health Unit is supplemented by Mental Health Liaison Officers (MHLOs). MHLOs maintain their primary assignments in Patrol, but owing to their interest and spirit of continuous improvement, they attend two additional training days throughout the year and take on additional tasks and responsibilities related to mental health-related crisis response. MHLOs work within and across districts to provide coordinated, consistent, and collaborative crisis response. Since the inception of the program in 2004, interest in the MHLO role has seen consistent growth. Our MHLOs represent all shifts and districts, and represent both the ranks of Police Officer and Sergeant.

Mental Health Officers And Law Enforcement Crisis Workers: Specialized And District-Assigned

Since 2015, MPD has had a specialized team of full-time Mental Health Officers. This team consists of six full-time Mental Health Officers (MHOs), and three embedded Law Enforcement Crisis Workers (LECWs). Our MHOs work out of each of the six MPD district stations, and are supervised by one MHU Sergeant. Our LECWs divide their time amongst the various MPD districts and are supervised by one LECW Manager. The MHU is organizationally positioned within MPD’s Community Outreach Section.

MHOs and LECWs regularly assist MHLOs and Patrol officers on active calls for service, striving to uphold the MHU values of problem solving and diversion. MHOs and LECWs share responsibilities that include: coordinating efforts with partner agencies; developing safety plans for individuals who would benefit from a unique emergency response; conducting follow-up tasks and engaging in proactive visits with community members living with mental illnesses; attending relevant meetings with stakeholders; and facilitating specialized trainings and community-based presentations.

Our team’s close partnership with Journey Mental Health allows our MHOs to co-respond with LECWs into the field, to assist with active crisis calls for service. In many cases, our LECWs provide the clinical context that informs our officers to reach better dispositions and aims to divert individuals from the criminal justice system. In other cases, our LECWs collaborate with MHOs to plan and carry out follow-up with individuals before or after a crisis occurs.

Our MHOs have all completed the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, which is a National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) initiative designed to improve the outcomes of police interactions with people living with mental illnesses. CIT is a nationally-recognized curriculum and our unit is proud to assist with local offerings of CIT and of Crisis Intervention Partners (CIP) training, the latter of which is a 16-hour training designed for wide-ranging audiences. Our MHOs seek further continuing education opportunities through various providers, notably through NAMI Wisconsin, Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP), Dane County’s Collaborative Stabilization Coalition, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

Madison Is A National Model for Police-Mental Health Collaboration

MPD's Mental Health Unit is one of only fifteen Police-Mental Health Collaboration (PMHC) learning sites selected by the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. As a learning site, our unit fields inquiries and hosts visitors from law enforcement agencies around the county who seek support to begin or advance behavioral health units of their own. Moreover, our distinction as a learning site provides ongoing training and professional development opportunities for members of our unit. Taken in tandem, our MHU and Madison’s Community Alternative Response Emergency Services (CARES) program are on the cutting edge of co-response initiatives that span the nation. Since the Fall of 2021, the CARES program that teams Madison Fire Department community paramedics and Journey Mental Health crisis workers has been active in Madison. Our Dane County 911 Center routinely dispatches CARES to calls that do not warrant a police response, and MPD officers have the ability to divert active calls to CARES that may also be appropriate. The CARES program expands the services available to the Madison community, and we couldn’t be happier to have them as a partner.

Our mental health unit now offers free community-based presentations (the “Crisis Response in Madison” series) to local agencies and organizations. If you are interested in hosting a presentation from our unit, please contact us at the phone number or email address along the right sidebar.

Mental Health Unit

November 28, 2023 6:58 AM

Greetings! During the month of November and December, the Community Outreach and Resource Education team (CORE) has been, and will continue to be very busy. Below is a list and summary of activities to date; and some of the upcoming events.... MPD Cares On Monday November 20th, Madison …

November 16, 2023 9:23 AM

Greetings: It is that time of year again where we consider various financial donations and toy drives. In 2018 we offered a new "gift" to donate toward, which will last a lifetime. The gift to read. Many youth in our community fall behind in their reading skills at an early age. Reading …

August 3, 2023 11:37 AM

Hello South Madison! Your South Police District continues to be involved in effective community engagement. This Thursday August 3, 2023 as we prepare for National Night Out SPD will be working with two of our community partners to host events catered towards youth. Event One: Title: …

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