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Mental health workers to deploy with police

By 3 June 2011 63

ACT Policing and ACT Government Health today launched a world-first trial embedding mental health clinicians within an operational policing environment.

Chief Police Officer for the ACT Roman Quaedvlieg and Ms Katrina Bracher from ACT Government Health officially launched the Mental Health Community Policing Initiative at the Winchester Police Centre with Chief Minister Katy Gallagher.

Chief Police Officer Quaedvlieg said the initiative is a world-first approach for police in recognising, relating and responding to people living with a mental health illness.

“We have reviewed and researched a number of models from around the world. This approach of embedding clinicians within our ACT Policing Operations centre has never been tested before. Clinicians provide direct support to police on the r-oad during peak periods,” he said.

The launch of the trial of the mental health clinicians allows ACT Policing members to have mental health expertise at their finger-tips.

“The clinicians provide expert advice and arrange for specialist assistance to officers in the field, allowing police to better assess a situation or individual who may be living with a mental illness — ultimately, allowing for more informed decision making and outcomes — a better outcome for police, a better outcome for the individual, and a better outcome for the community.”

Clinicians have been working in ACT Policing Operations (radio communications) for two months and have already received more than 170 calls for assistance.

The inaugural mental health training course, based on the proven NSW Police Force training package, will begin next week (Tuesday, June 7). All sworn police officers will undertake the training.

“While mental illness is a health issue and often not a law enforcement matter, we, as police, have a moral obligation to support those in our community who may have a mental illness,” Chief Police Officer Quaedvlieg said.

[Courtesy ACT Policing]

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63 Responses to Mental health workers to deploy with police
#1
canberralocal7:08 am, 04 Jun 11

No doubt this will be of interest to all regular posters in the thread, “Don’t have a domestic in your grow house” given the concerns raised in that thread about mental health and law enforcement generally, and how they relate to each other.

#2
Watson10:27 am, 04 Jun 11

Sounds like a good initiative to me.

“Clinicians have been working in ACT Policing Operations (radio communications) for two months and have already received more than 170 calls for assistance.”

Interesting that they only officially launch the strategy after they’ve already been trialling it for 2 months. That usually means they had doubts about the implementation. Or maybe they just didn’t want to wait for the Minister to make time for the media presentation…

And I don’t think anyone expects the police “to support those in our community who may have a mental illness” as such, but it’s clear that a proportion of the more serious crime is due to mental health issues and therefor it must be a good thing to have advice on hand on how to best defuse tricky situations to avoid people being harmed.

#3
Special G11:40 am, 04 Jun 11

Bit of a misleading headlive there JB. Were they to deploy they would be out and about able to respond and actually assess the mental health patient by looking at them and speaking with them. I am not sure how effective they are going to be at the other end of the phone.

Put them in a car and make them respond to MH incidents.

#4
Violet6811:52 am, 04 Jun 11

“While mental illness is a health issue and often not a law enforcement matter, we, as police, have a moral obligation to support those in our community who may have a mental illness,” Chief Police Officer Quaedvlieg said.

Totally agree

#5
The Frots12:56 pm, 04 Jun 11

Perhaps we can get some sitting off in a room next to the ACT Assembly as well…………………………I can see some use for that move!

#6
Deref2:02 pm, 04 Jun 11

Sounds like an excellent idea.

Unfortunately there’s been so much publicity over so many years about the extreme under-resourcing of mental health in the ACT that I wonder if this is just going to spread existing resources even more thinly.

#7
Violet685:47 pm, 04 Jun 11

And I don’t think anyone expects the police “to support those in our community who may have a mental illness” as such, but it’s clear that a proportion of the more serious crime is due to mental health issues and therefor it must be a good thing to have advice on hand on how to best defuse tricky situations to avoid people being harmed.

I most certainly do expect Police to support people with a mental illness in the community – the same way I expect them to support and protect any of the other vulnerable people in our society. Given that this project has already been operating for “two months”, recent events have me wondering how and IF Police are actually using it.

#8
nobody5:57 pm, 04 Jun 11

Terrific improvement. Society used to have some men in white coats who would arrive in a special van to fit a special jacket to people who are experiencing a mental breakdown. We realised this action was less than ideal and so stopped, but then didn’t replace that we a new improved system.

#9
Violet686:09 pm, 04 Jun 11

nobody said :

Terrific improvement. Society used to have some men in white coats who would arrive in a special van to fit a special jacket to people who are experiencing a mental breakdown. We realised this action was less than ideal and so stopped, but then didn’t replace that we a new improved system.

Apparently, the new improved system is called the justice system where you will be judged on the existence and severity of your illness and probably punished for it.

#10
Mental Health Worker6:22 pm, 04 Jun 11

Deref said :

Sounds like an excellent idea.

Unfortunately there’s been so much publicity over so many years about the extreme under-resourcing of mental health in the ACT that I wonder if this is just going to spread existing resources even more thinly.

Indeed. This is a tacit acceptance that the Crisis Team isn’t able to perform this role, which it should be able to. Also two clinicians simply can’t cover Thursday to Sunday 24 hours – do the maths. Thursday to Sunday is 4 days, or 96 hours, and a public servant works 36-ish hours oer week. When one of them is on leave, or sick, there won’t be cover.

The Canberra times reports that they’ve received an average of 6 calls a day – this sounds like very poor use of resources – dealing with one phone call very 6 hours. “Embedding” them in the police call centre sounds like it achieves nothing more than would be achieved by increasing the resources of CATT so that they can promptly answer calls from the police – presumably the initiative has been developed so as to give police priority access to a MH worker, but in the process it takes resources away from elsewhere. There’s a finite pool of MH workers in Canberra, and ACTMH always has vacancies.

MHW

#11
Mental Health Worker6:24 pm, 04 Jun 11

oops a couple of typos – should be 36-ish hours PER week; and EVERY six hours…

#12
nobody6:48 pm, 04 Jun 11

Violet68 said :

nobody said :

Terrific improvement. Society used to have some men in white coats who would arrive in a special van to fit a special jacket to people who are experiencing a mental breakdown. We realised this action was less than ideal and so stopped, but then didn’t replace that we a new improved system.

Apparently, the new improved system is called the justice system where you will be judged on the existence and severity of your illness and probably punished for it.

I mean the first response to someone having a mental breakdown, before an incident reaches the courts. We send the police, trained to subdue criminals, armed to inflict lethal harm. This type of first response from the police (well meaning, but not trained for these situations), has resulted in deaths and serious injuries.

#13
Special G12:17 pm, 05 Jun 11

nobody said :

Violet68 said :

nobody said :

Terrific improvement. Society used to have some men in white coats who would arrive in a special van to fit a special jacket to people who are experiencing a mental breakdown. We realised this action was less than ideal and so stopped, but then didn’t replace that we a new improved system.

Apparently, the new improved system is called the justice system where you will be judged on the existence and severity of your illness and probably punished for it.

I mean the first response to someone having a mental breakdown, before an incident reaches the courts. We send the police, trained to subdue criminals, armed to inflict lethal harm. This type of first response from the police (well meaning, but not trained for these situations), has resulted in deaths and serious injuries.

First response is family and friends – when they fail Mental Health when they fail the Police. Then the Police bear the responsibility for everyone elses failings. Recent Supreme Court findings clearly outline this.

If someone commits an offence the appropriate action for Police to take is to send them before the Courts. Then MH etc can get involved to work out whether the underlying issue is bad or mad. It is well known in Canberra that a little bit of mad will get you off a whole lot of bad.

#14
Violet682:05 pm, 05 Jun 11

Special G said :

nobody said :

Violet68 said :

nobody said :

Terrific improvement. Society used to have some men in white coats who would arrive in a special van to fit a special jacket to people who are experiencing a mental breakdown. We realised this action was less than ideal and so stopped, but then didn’t replace that we a new improved system.

Apparently, the new improved system is called the justice system where you will be judged on the existence and severity of your illness and probably punished for it.

I mean the first response to someone having a mental breakdown, before an incident reaches the courts. We send the police, trained to subdue criminals, armed to inflict lethal harm. This type of first response from the police (well meaning, but not trained for these situations), has resulted in deaths and serious injuries.

First response is family and friends – when they fail Mental Health when they fail the Police. Then the Police bear the responsibility for everyone elses failings. Recent Supreme Court findings clearly outline this.

If someone commits an offence the appropriate action for Police to take is to send them before the Courts. Then MH etc can get involved to work out whether the underlying issue is bad or mad. It is well known in Canberra that a little bit of mad will get you off a whole lot of bad.

Family and friends bear the responsibility each and every day 24/7.

A defence of mental illness is currently viewed as a loophole used to escape punishment. The perception of a perpetrator feigning madness can avoid sentence is not supported by evidence. Only 1% of charges are dismissed under the Mental Health Criminal Procedure Act. There is extensive evidence that people with severe mental illness are more likely to be convicted of misdemeanours than their mentally healthy counterparts and to be incarcerated for longer periods. In view of the high number of people with mental illness who do not have their charges dismissed, it is no wonder jails and detention centres have become “defacto” mental institutions.

#15
creative_canberran2:24 pm, 05 Jun 11

Sounds like a great idea, but we still need to work on getting tasers out there for senior officers. For all the negotiations and reasoning these new staff will enable, Police are still very limited in what they can do should a mentally ill person threaten members of the public or take a hostage (exemplified in the past week by two incidents involving custody disputes and children).

#16
Violet682:52 pm, 05 Jun 11

creative_canberran said :

Sounds like a great idea, but we still need to work on getting tasers out there for senior officers. For all the negotiations and reasoning these new staff will enable, Police are still very limited in what they can do should a mentally ill person threaten members of the public or take a hostage (exemplified in the past week by two incidents involving custody disputes and children).

yeah cos all mentally ill people require shock treatment

#17
Spideydog3:02 pm, 05 Jun 11

Special G said :

First response is family and friends – when they fail Mental Health when they fail the Police. Then the Police bear the responsibility for everyone elses failings. Recent Supreme Court findings clearly outline this.

If someone commits an offence the appropriate action for Police to take is to send them before the Courts. Then MH etc can get involved to work out whether the underlying issue is bad or mad. It is well known in Canberra that a little bit of mad will get you off a whole lot of bad.

Hit the nail on the head right there. Some people like Violet68 need to understand, that Police aren’t psychologists nor will they ever be no matter how much training is given. The training is for Police to better deal with and understand MH persons in crisis.

If a person is found committing criminal offences, they will be put before the courts. The courts have the ability to hear the matter and/or determine mental impairment or refer to the mental health tribunal. if deemed appropriate.

Violet68 should be having a go at the system if they have issue, not the Police that just do as the system requires.

#18
Violet683:39 pm, 05 Jun 11

People like myself, have every right to comment.
Violet68 should be having a go at the system if they have issue, not the Police that just do as the system requires.

The “system” requires Police to consider their options and seek specialist advice when dealing with MH crisis. In my experience, they prefer not to do so.

#19
creative_canberran3:48 pm, 05 Jun 11

Violet68 said :

creative_canberran said :

Sounds like a great idea, but we still need to work on getting tasers out there for senior officers. For all the negotiations and reasoning these new staff will enable, Police are still very limited in what they can do should a mentally ill person threaten members of the public or take a hostage (exemplified in the past week by two incidents involving custody disputes and children).

yeah cos all mentally ill people require shock treatment

So if a mentally ill person has an episode and decides to grab someone and hold a knife to them, you would prefer police have no other option but to shoot if they lunge with the knife.

On behalf of the mentally ill people in the future who will die or be seriously injured in such common situations, thank you. They appreciate it.

#20
Watson3:59 pm, 05 Jun 11

Violet68 said :

And I don’t think anyone expects the police “to support those in our community who may have a mental illness” as such, but it’s clear that a proportion of the more serious crime is due to mental health issues and therefor it must be a good thing to have advice on hand on how to best defuse tricky situations to avoid people being harmed.

I most certainly do expect Police to support people with a mental illness in the community – the same way I expect them to support and protect any of the other vulnerable people in our society. Given that this project has already been operating for “two months”, recent events have me wondering how and IF Police are actually using it.

They’re police. Their first responsibility is to uphold the law and protect the general public. I think this is a good initiative because if the people committing a crime or posing a danger to the public or themselves have mental health issues, everyone would benefit from a different approach. But I do not expect the police to “support” anyone. That’s just not what they are there for and I wouldn’t want it to distract them from their real job.

#21
Spideydog4:23 pm, 05 Jun 11

Violet68 said :

People like myself, have every right to comment.
Violet68 should be having a go at the system if they have issue, not the Police that just do as the system requires.

The “system” requires Police to consider their options and seek specialist advice when dealing with MH crisis. In my experience, they prefer not to do so.

I never said you don’t have the right to comment ……..

You again have shown no real idea of the system, only what YOU believe it should be. In my experience Police FREQUENTLY utilise MH services and advice, but if criminal offences are identified they will be put before the court and/or mental health tribunal and they have every right to argue mental impairment.

I’m sorry, but you come across as someone with sour grapes because your Son got prosecuted for criminal offences. Your Son has still got all the MH avenues and assistance available to him regardless of prosecution or not, so I think your point is moot.

#22
cranky4:57 pm, 05 Jun 11

Perhaps additional (?) MH staff at the Hume Hilton and Bimberi would be a far more effective use of resources.

#23
Violet685:10 pm, 05 Jun 11

They’re police. Their first responsibility is to uphold the law and protect the general public.

It appears that the Chief of Police has a different opinion (or the publicist)

#24
Violet685:30 pm, 05 Jun 11

creative_canberran said :

Violet68 said :

creative_canberran said :

Sounds like a great idea, but we still need to work on getting tasers out there for senior officers. For all the negotiations and reasoning these new staff will enable, Police are still very limited in what they can do should a mentally ill person threaten members of the public or take a hostage (exemplified in the past week by two incidents involving custody disputes and children).

yeah cos all mentally ill people require shock treatment

So if a mentally ill person has an episode and decides to grab someone and hold a knife to them, you would prefer police have no other option but to shoot if they lunge with the knife.

On behalf of the mentally ill people in the future who will die or be seriously injured in such common situations, thank you. They appreciate it.

Your very suggestion that all MH crisis somehow involve knives and the need for tasers reflects your poor understanding of the subject. Your comment simply reminded me of old archaic attitudes and the stigma that surrounds mental illness. You have no right to speak on behalf of all mentally ill people either now or in the future. I would love to sit you down in an actual consultation with mental health consumers so you could actually hear the stories about interactions with Police. THEN you might be entitled to an opinion…….

Now you are for the protection of people with a mental illness rather than the rest of the fine upstanding citizens of our society and armed forces? Hypocrite.

#25
Violet685:45 pm, 05 Jun 11

I do not expect the police to “support” anyone. That’s just not what they are there for and I wouldn’t want it to distract them from their real job.

So you wouldn’t want an elderly person with dementia who had gone on a wander to distract Police from their “real job” ……or that young woman with an intellectual disability who was found on a traffic island……or the little old lady who lived next door to my daughter and died in her flat because Police checked on her but left her to her own devices without contacting family. Yep, unimportant facets of the work……

#26
Violet686:04 pm, 05 Jun 11

You again have shown no real idea of the system, only what YOU believe it should be. In my experience Police FREQUENTLY utilise MH services and advice, but if criminal offences are identified they will be put before the court and/or mental health tribunal and they have every right to argue mental impairment.

I’m sorry, but you come across as someone with sour grapes because your Son got prosecuted for criminal offences. Your Son has still got all the MH avenues and assistance available to him regardless of prosecution or not, so I think your point is moot.

The recent introduction of this project reflects the NEED for Police to become better equipped to deal with MH crisis. I have become involved in various consumer consultations and read quite alot on the subject….and yes I have personal experience. However, there is a much bigger picture here.

Your comments about “people like me” should be having a go at this n that portray a judgmental attitude and unwillingness to admit that Police may need a kick in the arse when it comes to dealing with MH. I have backed up my comments with research which reflects reality rather than my personal situation. You, on the other hand, have not.

#27
Violet686:12 pm, 05 Jun 11

cranky said :

Perhaps additional (?) MH staff at the Hume Hilton and Bimberi would be a far more effective use of resources.

Given that the very environment within a prison CONTRIBUTES to mental illness I don’t see your point. Or are you saying, we should keep them all locked up forever?

#28
creative_canberran6:40 pm, 05 Jun 11

Violet68 said :

Your very suggestion that all MH crisis somehow involve knives and the need for tasers reflects your poor understanding of the subject. Your comment simply reminded me of old archaic attitudes and the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

Obviously Violet is non compus mentus.

If she were, she would be aware of a recent fatal shooting in Canberra where Police were chased by a man wielding knives. Police who didn’t have a taser.

But that’s okay, she obviously exists in a world where a whole different type of logic, reason and sense applies. I would suggest that world would quickly collapse however were a relative of hers shot by Police in similar circumstances. Then perhaps Tasers would not seem so evil. Indeed she would likely be yelling at Police why they weren’t used.

#29
Tooks6:54 pm, 05 Jun 11

Violet68 said :

People like myself, have every right to comment.
Violet68 should be having a go at the system if they have issue, not the Police that just do as the system requires.

The “system” requires Police to consider their options and seek specialist advice when dealing with MH crisis. In my experience, they prefer not to do so.

And what exactly is your experience, Violet (recent incident with a family member aside – which you didn’t attend anyway)? Police frequently seek advice from mental health, either by speaking directly with CATT, or by taking people directly to PSU if required. This happens so frequently in fact, that I’d suggest your experience in this area may be lacking.

#30
CanberraGirl197:29 pm, 05 Jun 11

Violet68 said :

People like myself, have every right to comment.
Violet68 should be having a go at the system if they have issue, not the Police that just do as the system requires.

The “system” requires Police to consider their options and seek specialist advice when dealing with MH crisis. In my experience, they prefer not to do so.

Um, correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t having mental health workers in the police operations area give them an opportunity to seek specialist advice? Since all they need to do it radio in to comms to get the advice they need. Just because the mental health workers aren’t getting that many calls from the public doesn’t mean they aren’t being utilised.

And since you’re so quick to criticise the police, how about they release some stats sometime about how many times they’ve had situations that have escalated to violence, where they called mental health beforehand and they couldn’t/wouldn’t attend? It’s not really fair to blame the police when they’re not specialist mental health workers, and sometimes getting advice or an actual mental health worker out to the situation is just not an option.

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