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Friday, May 24, 2024
MPD Chief Mike Koval spoke at a press conference Thursday announcing the MARI program.

MPD Chief Mike Koval spoke at a press conference Thursday announcing the MARI program.

MPD announces new arrest-alternative program

The Madison Police Department will start a three-year pilot program called the “Madison Addiction Recovery Initiative” after recently securing a $700,000 Smart Policing grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

MPD officials announced the initiative Thursday at a Pyle Center press conference. The initiative, which MPD is labeling “MARI,” will allow officers to offer some drug users treatment rather than arrest.

Those eligible for MARI will, if they choose, meet with an “intake counselor.” The counselor will screen the person and assist them in getting into residential or outpatient treatment programs. The program also allows for self-referral, meaning anyone can contact MPD without the risk of arrest and be referred to the program.

“Through this program we are hoping to provide opiate abusers with the treatment and tools necessary to get their lives back on track,” said MPD Investigative Services Lt. Cory Nelson in a press release.

UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health Department of Family Medicine and Community Health assistant professor Dr. Aleksandra Zgierska will lead a team of clinicians and researchers to track whether MARI is reaching its goals. The team will be constantly reviewing the initiative to provide research that could improve aspects of the program. They will also be doing a cost-benefit analysis of the program.

“We also have a goal for a significant reduction in property crime being committed by addicts to fund an opiate addiction,” Nelson said. “We feel we have partnered with powerful community allies in our fight against opiate addiction and hope that more of our community members feel the need to step forward to help fund treatment space for opiate abusers, which is in very short supply.”

Although MPD will be the primary agency implementing MARI, they will be working with a variety of other local, county and state agencies. They include, among others, the Madison Fire Department, Public Health Madison-Dane County and the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office.

Tellurian UCAN, Journey Mental Health, UW Behavioral Health and Recovery, ARC Community Services, NewStart and Connections Counseling will all be working with people admitted to the program to treat addiction.

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