Mental health nurse rides with police

TEAM WORK: Mental Health Nurse Janet Brack with Senior Constable Peter Lambert, the first officer to work a new rotation that will reduce the burden on Ipswich Hospital's Emergency Department by responding to mental health cases in the field.
TEAM WORK: Mental Health Nurse Janet Brack with Senior Constable Peter Lambert, the first officer to work a new rotation that will reduce the burden on Ipswich Hospital's Emergency Department by responding to mental health cases in the field. David Nielsen

A SPECIALLY trained nurse has joined police officers on call-outs to de-escalate emergencies while reducing the burden on resources, in a ground-breaking Ipswich trial.

For the past two weeks mental health nurse Janet Brack has been on the road working alongside police on call-outs in which mental health is a factor.

Instead of police bringing people to the Ipswich Hospital Emergency Department for assessment, Ms Brack has carried out assessments in the field.

It's not a new idea for Australia, but West Moreton Hospital and Health Service is the first in Queensland to offer a full-time nurse for the program, launched after a review of mental health services in the region.

Last month Ipswich Hospital dealt with 4852 presentations at the Emergency Department; of those 335 were mental health related.

Nurse Janet Brack expects those numbers to drop as the six-month trial program progresses.

She said in the first five days the patrol was called out for 20 jobs; of the 12 people they saw, only three were taken to hospital for medical care.

"That's 12 people the police would have otherwise brought into the Emergency Department," Ms Brack said.

"Studies show police do something like 90% of acute mental health fallouts.... but they don't have the training (to make judgment calls).

"So they tend to bring everyone in.

"Now the clients are much happier because they don't want to go to hospital in a police car where they can spend hours waiting for assessment."

Unlike police, Ms Brack has access to medical records and the skills to decide whether a person is a danger to themselves or others.

Ipswich Senior Sergeant Leon Margets said the new initiative had already proven beneficial with first responder general duty police officers released quickly from jobs then handled by the dedicated patrol.

"The officers aren't tied so they can go back to dealing with other crime," Sen Sgt Margets said.

"It's better to treat people in their own home rather than having two armed police officers take them off to hospital."

Topics:  ipswich ipswich hospital mental health nursing policing

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