Joe Parisi

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi's 2019 budget proposal includes an expansion of an emergency mobile mental health crisis program. 

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi’s 2019 budget proposal includes funding to expand emergency mental health services and strengthen the county’s response to the opioid epidemic.

Parisi’s proposed 2019 budget will include a $320,000 expansion of an emergency mobile mental crisis program created two years ago and coordinated by Journey Mental Health, Parisi announced Thursday. Officials say the boost in funding is the largest increase in frontline mental health resources in county history.

“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,” Parisi said in a statement. “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 expansion would increase the capacity of the program and help mental health crisis staff respond to emergencies at all hours every day of the week. In 2017, over 41,000 calls were placed to Journey’s mental health crisis line, according to the county. Of those calls, 3,000 were placed from midnight to 8 a.m.

The program currently maintains two staff members, who are embedded with the Madison Police Department to help officers de-escalate mental health crisis situations. With the additional funding, the program would create three crisis worker positions.

One of the positions will be housed in the Dane County Sheriff’s Office to work in rural areas and expand the reach of the mobile crisis response team.

“With this new position our deputies will be better equipped to keep those with mental illness out of the criminal justice system,” Sheriff Dave Mahoney said in the statement.

The 2019 budget proposal also includes $25,000 for the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness to continue crisis intervention training for local law enforcement and community organizations that work with vulnerable populations, Parisi announced.

Parisi’s budget also includes $125,000 to to support programs through the local nonprofit Safe Communities that connect individuals leaving jail or the emergency room to recovery programs through recovery coaches who share similar lived experiences.

“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.

Parisi has also included $10,000 to expand the availability of Narcan, an overdose reversal medication, into areas of the community that are experiencing increased overdose incidents and to over 125 businesses in Dane County.

Through August of 2018, there were over 200 heroin overdoses in city of Madison compared to a total of 142 for all of 2017. Overdose deaths have increased 120 percent.

On Tuesday, Parisi proposed a wide-ranging, $18 million initiative to address flooding prevention and preparedness. The full 2019 budget proposal will be introduced Oct. 1.

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