Police, nurse team up to take the load off emergency room

TEAM WORK: Mental Health Nurse Janet Brack with Senior Constable Peter Lambert, the first officer to work a new rotation reducing the burden on Ipswich Hospital Emergency Department.
TEAM WORK: Mental Health Nurse Janet Brack with Senior Constable Peter Lambert, the first officer to work a new rotation reducing the burden on Ipswich Hospital Emergency Department. David Nielsen

POLICE are spending less time waiting in the Ipswich Hospital Emergency Department, thanks to a trial-program teaming the force up with a mental health nurse.

Janet Brack is the mental health nurse assigned to the Co-Responder program launched in March.

Ms Brack had confidence in the program but said even she had been blown away by the results.

For the past five months Ms Brack has been answering specific calls for service, alongside the police.

The team responds to call-outs where mental health may be a factor. As a trained professional, Ms Brack can de-escalate a crisis situation and ensure people connect with the services they need.

The up-shot is, fewer people are being taken to the Ipswich Hospital, which frees police up to carry on with normal duties, instead of waiting at the ED for people to be admitted, which was a frequent occurrence before the program was introduced. She said police did not have the necessary specialist training to adequately assess the mental health needs of community members, so they were forced to take people to the Emergency Department for assessment.

"It makes such a difference for all of the services involved and for the people we see," Ms Brack said.

"The average response time for us to see people was 17 minutes from the time we receive the call. Those people could normally be sitting in the ED for two, three, seven hours but now they are being seen and coming to a conclusion within an hour or two.

"I'm personally really enjoying it because it feels like you are doing something that really makes a difference for so many people and different services because it affects so many services in such a positive way.

"A lot of people have been surprised by the service and really appreciate the difference it makes to talk to a mental health nurse when they need it most."

In the first four months of the program, a mental health co-responder nurse responded to 227 call-outs where mental health issues were potentially a factor, a West Moreton Hospital and Health Service spokesperson said.

Of 227 call-outs, 150 required formal assessments where the nurse attended in-person.

In other instances the nurse provided over-the-phone advice to the police first responders, advice to people making general enquires at the police station or the call for assistance was cancelled.

Of the 150 formal on-site assessments, only 22 resulted in a person being taken to Ipswich Hospital's Emergency Department.

The program is now waiting for the results of a formal evaluation being conducted by the Queensland Centre for Mental Health research using data supplied by Janet's team.

Topics:  ipswich hospital mental health policing

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