Mental-health aides free up Geraldton police

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Elise Van AkenGeraldton Guardian
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Assistant Commissioner Jo McCabe, Geraldton MLA Lara Dalton, Police Minister Paul Papalia, Aboriginal Health Worker Chris Fitzgerald and Mid-West Gascoyne Supt Roger Beer.
Camera IconAssistant Commissioner Jo McCabe, Geraldton MLA Lara Dalton, Police Minister Paul Papalia, Aboriginal Health Worker Chris Fitzgerald and Mid-West Gascoyne Supt Roger Beer. Credit: Edward Scown/Midwest Times

A new initiative to help people suffering with mental illness involved in incidents where police are called has been praised as a success just four weeks into the trial, thanks to a reduction in the number of people hospitalised which has kept police on the streets for longer.

The first regional roll-out of the police mental health co-response program, which has successfully run in four metropolitan districts since 2016, has seen the detainment of people at the centre of mental health-related police call-outs decrease as much as 60 per cent over the four weeks of the trial.

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The program has involved 16 selected Geraldton police officers receiving special Department of Health training.

A clinician and an Aboriginal health worker are assigned to the mental health team each shift.

Geraldton police officer-in-charge Sen. Sgt Chris Martin said the result had drastically reduced the amount of time officers had to spend at hospitals dealing with mental-health incidents, which had previously been up to three hours for each case.

“We’ve attended nearly 80 mental health jobs since the program started, all of which have been in conjunction with colleagues at the Health Department,” he said.

“I’m glad to say that we’ve had a very positive response. Of those 80 jobs we’ve only had to take action on 40 per cent of them.

So it’s been a real good reduction, we’re giving that at-home straightaway service to those who require mental health services.

“And we’re seeing that general reduction in the detainment of people coming to the hospital which is allowing our officers to be on the street a bit longer.”

The trial is set to continue for two years and due to be expanded to the South West.

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