A police proposal to send mental health workers on crisis callouts has been abandoned after the Government reallocated its funding, while Rotorua police say the community would benefit from a more preventative mental health strategy.

According to their proposal, released under the Official Information Act, police felt they were "increasingly acting as first responders to people who should more appropriately receive a mental health response".

In August last year police announced they would pilot the scheme as one of 17 initiatives in a $100 million mental health fund.

The scheme was proposed to begin in Auckland, Christchurch and Palmerston North by September.


But Health Minister David Clark said claims Labour had "cut the previous Government's plans for mental health projects" was wrong.

"One of the first things this Government did as part of its First 100 Days programme was launch a Mental Health Inquiry.

"We expect it to result in robust recommendation and advice for improving outcomes for those suffering mental health distresses."

He said the Government had already made going to the GP an average of $20 to $30 cheaper for more than half a million Kiwis by the end of the year, making the first port of call for mental health care much more accessible.

"These measures mean more people suffering from mental health distress will find it easier to get the help they need sooner.

"That will, over time, reduce the strain on emergency services, including the police."

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Rotorua police area prevention manager Inspector Brendon Keenan said a lot of calls the police responded to were related to mental health.

"It is certainly a prominent aspect of policing.

"It goes beyond self-harm and suicide call outs, into all sorts of events, whether that's dealing with young people or family harm. The cases are often intertwined."

Currently, police detained suspects in mental health-related incidents and brought them back to the police station to be dealt with.

"Once we have them on station them someone is called back in to deal with them.

"That is a concern sometimes and it does take up a lot of police time because we can't proceed until a specialist can come in and while that's sometimes minutes, other times it's hours."

Keenan said he didn't understand how the proposal would work in a practical sense but "Rotorua could certainly benefit" from mental health intervention at an early stage.

"The biggest difference can be made with our young people or those who have mental health issues if it's dealt with earlier.

"Our operating strategy is always prevention first, so more money going into mental health services would align well with that."

Rotorua police had been working to wrap services around families, particularly at family violence callouts, by checking there were enough beds, warm clothing and food in homes.

Lifewise Rotorua service manager Haehaetu Barrett said, from its perspective, Rotorua groups needed to be supportive of each other to prevent mental health creating issues in the community.

"Addictions are a strong part of the mental health issues we see, but there are a lot of facets of mental health."

She said there needed to be a greater input at the intervention and prevention stage.