CARES program expansion to include weekend service

The Madison Fire Department announced in a recent press release the expansion of the Madison Community Alternative Response Emergency Services (CARES) program to include weekend service. First effective Saturday, Sept. 16, Madison CARES will respond to nonviolent behavioral health emergencies on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Madison CARES teams consist of a Madison Fire Department community paramedic and a Journey Mental Health crisis worker responding to calls dispatched through the Dane County Public Safety 911 Communications Center. Designed as an alternative approach to dispatching law enforcement, the teams provide patient-centered care to people experiencing behavioral health emergencies with a goal of connecting them with the resources they need.

Madison CARES was launched two years ago as a pilot program serving the downtown Madison area on weekdays. Since that time, CARES service has expanded to weeknight hours with citywide service, responding from Fire Station 3 on Williamson Street and the old town of Madison Fire Station on Fish Hatchery Road.

Madison CARES has responded to over 3,200 calls for service since its inception on Sept. 1, 2021. The program has seen an increase in demand as its service expanded in geographic area, hours of service, and number of teams.