Public Safety Review Committee struggles to find concrete solutions to address mental health

The Public Safety Review Committee of Madison addressed city-wide mental health issues Tuesday, with Madison Police Department Capt. Brian Ackeret reporting about the recently introduced mental health officer program.

Five officers were assigned to manage the program, which started on the first of February and is going well, according to Ackeret. Each officer is responsible for administering the program in one of the five districts and received crisis intervention training before getting assigned to responding to mental health crises in their respective districts.

“[The goal of the program is to] try to deal with things before crisis mode,” Ackeret said.

Madison Fire Department Chief Steven Davis also commented on MFD’s involvement with mental health. The department is working with the MPD to ensure they are taking the right people to the hospital.

“In January, five individuals made 34 calls for paramedics and we are trying to narrow this down because when someone calls for the paramedics they have to be taken to the hospital whether or not they actually need to go,” Davis said.

Davis also said there is an association between these calls and homelessness.

Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, commented on the prevalence of homeless individuals breaking and entering the Madison Municipal Building.

“Eight to 12 individuals are responsible for most of these incidents,” Skidmore said.

He stated that most of these individuals are homeless and that there are incentives for them to engage in this conduct.

“They receive tickets, but do not pay them … after 10 tickets they have to spend three days in jail where there are warm beds and food,” Skidmore said.

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