The Mental Health and Police Response (MHaP) will see a dual community response from both a police officer and an experienced mental health clinician in situations where the 000 responder has determined mental distress to be a key factor in the presenting incident.
The region-first initiative, funded by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, is based on a successful pilot model already trialled in other Victorian metro and regional locations, known as PACER.
‘Evaluations of existing PACER 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. 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,’ says SWH Mental Health Services Warrnambool Adult team manager Dr Rochelle Hine.
Warrnambool’s Senior Sergeant Shane Keogh is also optimistic the MHaP initiative will have benefits for our local communities, including improved relationships between mental health services and police, and increased opportunities for shared learning and collaboration that will ultimately result in better outcomes for people when they are at their most vulnerable.
‘We have built a strong relationship with our local stakeholders to drive this initiative. 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,’ Sen Sgt Keogh says.
To be based out of the Warrnambool police station, and managed by SWH Mental Health Services’ Adult Mental Health Community Access Team, the initiative will commence next month at, initially, four days/week. Its initial focus will be the Warrnambool area because data indicates this is where the greatest demand for the service is. The plan is to eventually roll MHaP across the entire region.