'There is hope:' MPD crisis response teams provide mental health help, education

MILWAUKEE -- FOX6 News hit the road with the Milwaukee Police Department on Wednesday, July 22 for an inside look at the Crisis Assessment Response Team, known as CART. One of its main goals -- is not to make arrests -- but to deescalate situations and connect people with resources they need.

Kevin Bolyard and Enjoli Varnado

"We serve as a bridge," said Enjoli Varnado, a behavioral health clinician.

Varnado works as a clinician on one of three CART teams. The program is a collaboration between MPD and Milwaukee County's Behavioral Health Division. It seeks to educate and provide help for those who don't know where to turn.

"We're partners," said Milwaukee Police Officer Kevin Bolyard.

However, instead of another officer in his squad, Bolyard sits beside Varnado.

Crisis Assessment Response Team

On Wednesday, the pair was requested for a mental health assessment. To protect the person's privacy, FOX6 did not film while on location. In this case, the situation was calm when the team arrived. However, at other times, deescalation is crucial.

"Another call may be a suicide attempt," said Varnado.

Recently, Varnado's efforts were life-saving when she responded to the Hoan Bridge where she said someone was planning to jump.

Enjoli Varnado

"It took a little time because you have to build rapport," Varnado said. "He trusted us enough to come off the bridge and seek help."

Though he has been a Milwaukee police officer for more than a decade, it is the ability to make that difference that inspired Bolyard to join CART.

"You can actually see a real success in helping individuals," said Bolyard. "I want to be that person to help somebody."

It's help the team wants more people in the community to know is available.

"There is hope, there is help, you don't have to suffer alone," Varnado said.

"It's not a weakness if you need help," said Bolyard. "It doesn't matter who you are, what you do, where you grew up, how you grew up -- everybody needs help."

If you or someone you know needs immediate assistance from a licensed therapist or social worker, Milwaukee County's Mental Health Crisis Line is available 24/7 at 414-257-7222. For additional mental health resources in Milwaukee, click HERE.

CART also wants the community to know that you may request their response when dialing 911.