Thursday, April 18, 2024

Govt dials up new multi-agency approach to 111 calls

The Government has today committed to the roll-out of a national multi-agency approach to better respond to 111 calls for people experiencing mental distress.

While there are already pilots and examples of joint Police-Health responses in some areas, the Government will make these approaches available nationwide over the next five years, said Health Minister, Ayesha Verrall.

Police Minister, Ginny Andersen said the Government will also expand co-response teams to respond to calls for people in mental distress.

“Co-response teams are already operating in six police districts and involve Police, mental health professionals and in some cases ambulance officers or a Māori health navigator. They’ve been locally developed and support early intervention, crisis responses, and access to health and social supports,” Minister Andersen said.

Minister Verrall said Police and Health had been asked to jointly report back to Cabinet next March with a plan of how multi-agency responses could be implemented and what resources would be required.

“The plan we have asked for will set out how to transition from a Police-led response to a multi-agency response to 111 calls for people in mental distress over the next five years.”

“We want multi-agency responses in every Police district and the plan will help ensure people who present in mental distress via 111 receive the support they need, from the right people at the right time,” she said. 

Minister Andersen said calls for people in mental distress represented around 10% of all 111 calls for assistance.

“Mental distress-related demand on Police is increasing and impacting on their ability to respond to criminal offending and core Police business.”

“While Police will always have a role in responding to emergency calls when there is a threat to life or public safety, we know that a Police-led response is not always fit for purpose for people experiencing mental distress.

“A combined response involving police, health and other social agencies will better support people presenting with mental distress via 111, along with easing demand on frontline Police,” Ms Andersen said.

Minister Verrall said that along with establishing co-response teams made up of police, mental health professionals and ambulance officers in every district, the Government will improve triaging in Emergency Communication Centres, increase the use of telehealth and digital counselling, and develop multi-agency crisis hubs as alternatives to relieve pressure on emergency departments.

“We will also explore how we can provide greater mental health-related training to existing workforces.”

“This will complement the wider work underway across government to improve mental health and wellbeing in our communities. This work is expected to have a positive impact on mental distress and free up police resources,” she said.

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