POLICE will benefit from the presence of expert clinicians when attending incidents involving people suffering mental health issues.
The new program is aimed at a more rapid response and improved outcomes for people experiencing a mental health crisis.
The mental health and police response (MHaP) will see a dual community response from police officers and a mental health clinician in situations where the 000 responder has determined mental distress to be a key factor in the incident.
The program will be managed by South West Healthcare’s (SWH) mental health services’ adult mental health community access team.
SWH mental health services adult team manager Dr Rochelle Hine said the program has a good track record.
“Evaluations of existing programs have found positive outcomes such as a reduction in the need for people in acute mental distress to be brought by police to emergency departments where they can sometimes face lengthy wait times,” Ms Hine said.
“Instead, the mental health and police response model means a mental health clinician will accompany police to visit the person in their home to conduct an assessment to determine what treatment they may need.
“Often the result is the development of a plan so that the person can safely remain at home and not come to hospital at all.”
The program is a region-first initiative and is funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.
Senior sergeant Shane Keogh from Warrnambool police said the program will be a welcome asset.
“Our members would attend an incident where mental health is an issue at least once a day,” he said.
“This program will benefit the police, hospital staff and the people we are trying to help.”
The program will be rolled out in Warrnambool, beginning in November, with the plan to eventually cover the whole region.
Senior Sergeant Deon Townsend-Booth from Warrnambool police has worked in a similar program in Melbourne.
He is optimistic the program will have a positive impact in the Warrnambool community.
‘We have built a strong relationship with our local stakeholders to drive this initiative,” Senior Sergeant Townsend-Booth said.
“It is hoped this trial will see positive outcomes for people in need within the community, enhanced training in the mental health space for frontline police officers and the reduction in time on both police and medical resources addressing mental health incidents.”