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Dane County Executive Parisi Announces 2019 Budget Initiatives to Significantly Expand Emergency Mental Health Services, Combat Opioid Epidemic

September 27, 2018
Casey Slaughter Becker, 608-267-8823
County Executive

Dane County Executive Parisi Announces 2019 Budget Initiatives to Significantly Expand Emergency Mental Health Services, Combat Opioid Epidemic


MADISON – The 2019 Dane County budget will include significant resources to address two areas that have put an increased strain on law enforcement and our community – emergency mental health crisis response and the opioid epidemic – , Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today.


“Often, law enforcement and other emergency responders are the first at the scene when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis or an opioid overdose,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “By expanding proven programs, we will partner with law enforcement to give them the extra resources they need in a response, and partner with local agencies to help ensure those struggling with mental illness or addiction get the support they need.”


The County Executive’s 2019 budget will include the single largest increase in frontline mental health resources in Dane County’s history – a $320,000 expansion of the emergency mobile mental crisis program created two years ago, and coordinated by Journey Mental Health.


The program currently has two staff imbedded at the Madison Police Department to aid officers in de-escalation of emergency situations where mental health is an underlying contributor. The County Executive’s budget would create three additional crisis worker positions, including one that would be imbedded with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, responsible for patrolling many rural areas of the County, to expand the reach of the mobile crisis response team.


“I applaud County Executive Parisi for placing a dedicated mental health specialist, imbedded in the sheriffs office, as part of his 2019 Executive Budget,” said Dane County Sheriff David Mahoney. “Our staff have shown over the past three years that through our crisis intervention team jail training our deputies have been better prepared to address mental health challenges as they arise. With this new position our deputies will be better equipped to keep those with mental illness out of the criminal justice system.”


The additional positions will also help mental health crisis staff respond to an emergency 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In 2017, over 41,000 calls were placed to Journey’s mental health crisis line, with 3,000 calls coming in from Midnight to 8:00am, showing the need for continuous coverage and support for those in need. Calls that cannot be resolved over the phone result in a crisis worker responding to an individual’s home or location to provide assistance.


To better prepare frontline responders for de-escalation strategies when they’re in the midst of an emergency, the County Executive’s 2019 budget also includes $25,000 to continue crisis intervention training done by NAMI-Dane County. In 2018, NAMI helped train local law enforcement and other organizations that work with vulnerable populations in de-escalation techniques to help prevent or respond to mental health crisis.


The County Executive’s budget will bolster efforts to combat Dane County’s opioid epidemic as well. Through August of 2018, there were over 200 heroin overdoses in the City of Madison, compared to a total of 142 for all of 2017. Overdose deaths have increased 120%.


$125,000 will support Safe Communities’ Emergency Department to Recovery, Jail to Recovery, and Pregnancy to Recovery programs. The Emergency Department to Recovery program reports having a 90% success rate at getting individuals into treatment after presenting in the emergency room with an overdose. This direct intervention in the emergency room has become a statewide model for combating opioid addiction.


The Jail to Recovery model has shown similar success, working directly with individuals in jail for opiate-related offenses. The program not only connects individuals to treatment, it plays an integral role in re-entry efforts aimed at helping those returning to our community from the criminal justice system find stable housing and living situations that will help their recovery and prevent a return to incarceration.


“Safe Communities is grateful to County Executive Joe Parisi and the Dane County community for allowing those of us in recovery to guide others into recovery,” said Skye Boughman, Safe Communities' Drug Poisoning Prevention Manager. “Our coaches are paired with recoverees that have the same lived experiences. They walk side by side with their recoverees to find substance use and mental health treatment services, stable housing, and make their way back into the workforce. For everyone out there that is still struggling, Dane County believes in you, sees your value, and is here to help.”


Public Health Madison-Dane County will receive $10,000 in additional resources in the County Executive’s budget to expand the availability of Narcan, the opiate overdose countering drug, into parts of the community that are experiencing higher occurrences of overdoses. The additional funds will allow the department to distribute Narcan to over 125 business locations in Dane County in 2019.


For more information on how the opioid epidemic has effected Dane County, please visit:


The County Executive’s full 2019 budget proposal will be introduced on October 1st.