POLICE can receive more than six callouts to people suffering a mental health crisis in a single week in South Gippsland.
An innovative program between Wonthaggi Police and Latrobe Regional Hospital is ensuring patients receive the medical help they need, even when episodes of illness create circumstances warranting police attendance.
Wonthaggi Police has joined forces with a team of mental health clinicians from Latrobe Regional Hospital to quickly and effectively respond to people in crisis from Foster to Phillip Island.
Previously, police would spend more than eight hours waiting for people to be treated, but by working with the clinicians, that time has been cut down to one hour per job.
The clinicians work with police seven days a week during afternoon shifts as part of the Mental Health and Police Response program.
They attend cases where someone may be having an episode, are mentally unstable or threatening self harm. Police have also attended family violence cases.
As well as working on site, the clinicians take phone consultations, offer referrals and help families.
Clinicians from Latrobe Regional Hospital have been working with police to deliver more timely responses to people in crisis since December.
“As well as saving police hours, it has reduced presentations to the emergency department. There have been more than 70 case since December, and of those, only five people have had to be transported to the hospital,” nurse practitioner Kylie Burns said.
“It has been a benefit to the community because we have been able to reach out to people in their homes, which has allowed them to maintain confidentiality and their dignity. It has reduced the on-call rate and we are no longer tying up ambulances.
“We’ve also had some repeat clients, who now know assistance is available. They aren’t abusing it, but it helps them to know they can get treatment readily.”
Police are still the primary responders, but will request the mental health unit as a secondary responder.
“We reduce time by being on route before we are requested,” Ms Burns said.
“Recently, we were called out to jobs in Pioneer Bay, Ventnor and Korumburra and were able to attend them all as requested because we were already on our way.”
The program is a trial and will be reviewed at the end of the financial year. Wonthaggi Police hope funding will be available to allow the program to continue.
“There is no downside here. When there is no action during a shift, the clinicians are able to provide education to our members to further our knowledge about these situations,” Wonthaggi Police’s Acting Senior Sergeant Andy Boldiston said.
“The more knowledge we have about conditions and behaviours, the better.”
Ms Burns said the program has been well embraced by local police officers and the community.
“We are in the stages of gathering data, so we can apply to continue the program,” she said.
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