Mental health issues can't be scheduled - you never know when someone will be brought in who needs immediate help.
More and more people are coming forward and asking for help when dealing with their mental health. While this is certainly positive, as it means help can be provided before it is too late, it is also putting pressure on our police.
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Every 24 hours, police staff respond to 90 calls involving a person having a mental health crisis, including suicide attempts. Nationwide this takes up an average 274 hours of staff time every day.
Our police officers provide a quick and in-person 24/7 response to an individual's crisis. They are often the first responders to difficult and complex situations.
In 2018, police attended almost 40,000 events involving mental health issues and, in their own words, they're not equipped to deal with this number of cases.
It's clear there needs to be further investment in mental health support within the police.
Instead of coming to the table and providing that much needed support, the Government has removed critical programmes that support police and people who need help.
The "watch-house nurse pilot initiative" was launched in 2008 and placed mental health nurses at Counties Manukau Police Watch House. Following the success of the initiative, the pilot became business as usual in 2014.
Having two fulltime nurses working in the cells meant people dealing with mental health issues could be looked at immediately by a health professional. The nurses were at the epicentre of police operations and able to work extremely closely with the officers.
A review of the initiative showed there was strong evidence of reduced risk of harm, efficient referrals and ongoing education to police on mental health responses.
However, last year the programme had removed the mental health professionals out of watch-houses, removing a critical response to mental health issues from the frontline.
Another programme that has been cut under this Government was an $8 million co-response service. This was designed by experts to see mental health nurses attending mental health incidents alongside police and paramedics.
Officials believed it could reduce the number of mentally ill people being locked up in police cells or transported to emergency departments and mean fewer emergency service calls to police and ambulance services.
Those in distress could be assessed in their homes or on the scene to ensure they receive a timely and holistic response.
It's disappointing the Government has scrapped this programme before it was even off the ground and didn't replace it with anything.
National is committed to introducing initiatives to help people in need and police to respond to mental health issues. We would ensure funding is restored to the watch-house nurse pilot initiative and that the mental health co-response is re-established.
We want to see mental health professionals involved in responses to incidents alongside police and emergency services. By having nurses involved, police can focus on reducing crime in our communities and solving investigations, while specialists respond and assist with the very real mental health issues present.
It is important our police have the resources and the support they need so they can keep New Zealanders safe.
• Brett Hudson is the National Party's police spokesperson.