Madison PD utilizes mental health officers to help future calls with people with mental illness

Madison PD utilizes mental health officers to help future calls with people with mental illness

A man in Madison is alive thanks to the work of police officers.

On Wednesday, Madison police officers responded to a suicidal man who seemed like he might jump from the top of a parking garage.

Officer Casey Amoroso was there, and it wasn’t the first time she’d met the man.

“The information that was aired by dispatch led us to believe that it was someone that we have worked extensively with with the mental health unit,” she said.

These fine folks are part of the mental health unit with @madisonpolice. They review incident reports and work with the community to better respond to calls dealing with people with mental illness. Yesterday, they used their experience to help save a man’s life. #News3Now pic.twitter.com/ls5tqXOS1O

— Amy Reid (@amyreidreports) June 14, 2019

Amoroso is an officer within the mental health unit of the Madison Police Department, a special team of only six officers and mental health professionals from Journey Mental Health, tasked with cases involving people dealing with mental illness.

They don’t respond to every call, instead reviewing incident reports to give a more thought-out approach to helping these individuals that they can share with the rest of the department.

“We’ve certainly seen instances where the information that we share can have a positive effect on the response,” said Andrew Muir, a mental health officer with the department. “Police officers can always make better decisions when they have more information and more time, so what we see our role is in many situations is just sharing that information and distributing that information as best we can.”

Muir kept track of how many hours the department spends responding to calls with people dealing with mental illness, which was about 5,400 hours in the first quarter alone. In 2018, this type was 10 percent of all their calls.

This team can focus on following up with these calls, bringing mental health professionals along with them, which cuts back on the calls happening again. They also assign officers to “street week,” where the officers walk the streets of their districts and foster positive relationships with individuals who might need police intervention in the future.

The officers consider this unit a preventative measure and a trust-building mission, something they had practice with when it came to the man Wednesday.

“Having that knowledge about this person was crucial because we were able to lock into something that we knew he enjoyed,” Amoroso said. “Having that information is what was crucial to getting him back over the edge.”

This unit has been working within the department since 2015, and they are just one of 10 Bureau of Justice learning sites in the country.

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