Improving outcomes from police interactions
Police play a vital role in our community and are often the first responders to calls for assistance, including from people living with mental illness or experiencing a mental health crisis.
These interactions can have a long-lasting impact on the recovery of a person living with a mental illness, members of the community, and on the mental health and wellbeing of police and other frontline services.
While the majority of interactions occur without incident, the deaths of five men thought to be experiencing a mental illness or mental health crisis, brought the issue to the forefront.
This terrible tragedy prompted positive improvements about how we approach and manage instances where someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, with the Queensland Police Service and Queensland Health initiating immediate system reviews in response to the deaths.
When interactions occur between police and those people living with a mental illness or experiencing a mental health crisis, we need to ensure police have the tools needed, and are supported by other services to facilitate a pathway to treatment and care.
This options paper is based on a series of Strategic Conversations hosted by the Commission and attended by people living with mental illness, frontline police, ambulance and health workers.
It is informed by international and national evidence about what works, the nature of police interactions in Queensland, as well as models to improve the experiences of people living with mental illness and their support people, as well as frontline police, ambulance and health workers.
A systemic approach
The Queensland Police Service, together with Queensland Health and Queensland Ambulance Service have implemented a number of initiatives to improve outcomes for people living with mental illness or who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.
While the majority of interactions occur without incident, the deaths of five men thought to be experiencing a mental illness or mental health crisis, brought the issue to the forefront. The Queensland Police Service and Queensland Health initiated immediate reviews of their systems in response to the deaths.
This options paper complements these reviews by considering the interactions between these service systems. It does not review the circumstances of the deaths, which are detailed in the recommendations of a Coronial Inquest.
This paper outlines options to improve outcomes for people living with mental illness or experiencing a mental health crisis when they come in contact with police.
Options for continuous improvement include:
- building relationships and adopting a holistic approach
- involving families and carers
- the system of support
- better collaboration and information sharing
- training in mental health (co-design)
- training in mental health (mentors)
- training in mental health legislation
- wellbeing of first responders.
Read the media release Tragedy prompts wide-ranging reform options
During the course of the Strategic Conversations and prior to publishing this report, a number of service enhancements, funded by the Commission, have already been made, including:
- expansion of the Police Communications Centre Mental Health Liaison Service
- implementation of the Mental Health Support of Police Negotiators Program providing state-wide support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The way forward
Reform will continue to focus on prevention, early intervention, supporting recovery and service integration.
The Commission will continue to support innovative, evidence-based strategies and initiatives informed by the Strategic Conversations and the Coroner’s recommendations.