Madison’s Community Alternative Response for Emergency Services (CARES) program is a mobile response team for behavioral health emergencies. The CARES program was launched in September of 2021 and is now releasing an end-of-year report PDF and hosting a public meeting for community input on the program on December 7.

“Very few communities are responding to their community’s mental health needs in this way. I’m proud to see the positive impact CARES has had in the community, and the benefits it’s brought to the patient experience. It’s also allowed the police department, who had previously been our only option for responding to 911 mental health calls, to focus on violent crime,” said Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. “We are looking to the community for feedback on this first year of service and want to give an update on plans for expansion.”

Key takeaways from the report include:

  • The City safely responded to 935 calls in the first year.
  • CARES teams addressed most patient needs in person, with only 31% needing transport for further services.
  • CARES responded to 57% of the estimated number of mental health calls for service in Madison, while CARES teams were on duty.
  • Only 3% of CARES calls resulted in transfers to MPD officers, who are the only people by state law who can engage in emergency detentions.

“We’ve been very intentional about using data to expand and improve this program,” said Madison Fire Department Assistant Chief Ché Stedman. “We started this program by learning from other communities and since its inception have listened to our community partners, our staff and our residents to improve the program. At the end of one year of service, we are once again soliciting community feedback.”

CARES response teams consist of one crisis worker from Journey Mental Health and one paramedic from the Madison Fire Department. Initially, CARES was a single team that only responded in the downtown area, 8-hours per weekday. Now there are two CARES teams that respond Citywide with expanded service hours of 8am – 8pm on weekdays; one team responds out of Fire Station 3 on Williamson Street and the other responds out of the former Town of Madison Fire Station on Fish Hatchery Road. (Further expansions were included in the Mayor’s 2023 budget as passed by the Common Council and will be implemented next year.)

Public Meeting Details
The City of Madison is hosting a virtual public meeting to gather feedback on the programs and present the year-end report produced by Public Health Madison & Dane County. This listening session will be an opportunity for residents to learn about program outcomes, and help us envision the program’s future while giving feedback on other aspects of the CARES program as well.

The public can register for the public meeting .

Read the annual report PDF .

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