Police cannot rush pulling out of attending mental health callouts, foundation says

Mental health advocates say pulling police away from 80,000 mental health callouts a year could be disastrous for people in distress – if it is not done right.

On Tuesday it was revealed that about half the officers going into newly announced gang busting units will be taken off other duties, as police crackdown on patched criminals.

In a Checkpoint interview last night, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said officers would focus on their core responsibilities and that meant being less involved in mental health callouts.

But the Mental Health Foundation is worried that there is nothing to fill the gap redeployed police will leave, and a ham-fisted approach will be a disaster.

Chief executive Shaun Robinson told Checkpoint he would not be comfortable with the decision made by police unless there is a “thorough” plan in place to replace officers.

“You can’t just say ‘that’s not core police business, we’re not doing it anymore’ when you’ve got 80,000 New Zealanders in need who have no other response to their need.

“I think Commissioner Coster is a reasonable person and he’s talking about being in discussion with other bodies, and I’m presuming that’s the health system.”

Robinson said there was co-response teams in place in six of the 12 police districts which saw police and mental health workers respond to callouts.

But while he agreed that police were not always the best to respond to such callouts, there needed to be a better system in place before they pulled out.

“My big fear is setting up that new system, it is going to take years because the mental health system is massively under the pump anyway, so setting up anything new is going to take years not weeks or months.”

He was also worried that those in government responsible for the crackdown on gangs and those responsible for mental health were not talking to each other and that it would leave people in mental distress to fall down a “gaping hole”.

People’s health could end up being a consequence of the government toughening its stance on gangs, he said.

“The police cannot rush to pulling out of mental health callouts.”

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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