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Pilot scheme findings conclude mental health response partnership model a success

Published Tuesday 25 Jan 2022

The findings of an independent evaluation of the Wellington Co-Response Team (CRT) initiative trialled in Wellington last year has concluded the pilot scheme was a success.

The year-long trial, from March 2020 to March 2021, brought together staff from Wellington District Police, Wellington Free Ambulance and Capital & Coast DHB, offering support to people in mental distress from a wider range of specialists.

Staff from the three different organisations within the CRT were dispatched to both Police and Ambulance emergency mental health callouts in the same vehicle.

The evaluation of the pilot scheme, undertaken by the University of Otago Department of Psychological Medicine, found CRT had a range of positive benefits, including a reduction in the use of powers under the Mental Health Act and less reliance on emergency departments.

"The evaluation itself ran for the 12-month period alongside the trial," says Police Community Focus Manager, Inspector Brent Register.

“It’s extremely positive to know the evaluation findings support what we understood anecdotally – that an approach that puts the person in distress and their whānau at the heart of decision making and care planning works."

Conclusions from high-level evaluation findings included:

• Reduction in the use of powers under the Mental Health Act
• Resolving matters at point of contact, including provision of a wrap-around service
• Referring the client to pathways outside of direct transport to a Police station or Emergency Department
• Reduced Emergency Department service utilisation
• Information sharing improved
• Was viewed as culturally safe
• Was considered to decrease the risk of violence.

“In times of mental health distress, it is important that people get the support and care they need sooner and in an integrated way,” says Chief Executive of Hutt Valley and Capital & Coast DHB, Fionnagh Dougan.

“Mental health kaimahi attending emergency call-outs with police and ambulance staff can offer people experiencing crisis the support they need on-the-spot, and more streamlined access to the most relevant service.

“People who are experiencing mental distress do not always require hospital-level care. The CRT has helped enable crisis callouts to be resolved, and people to receive comfort and support, in a more appropriate environment. Working across agencies is key to finding the best options for people.

“The pilot has also strengthened collaboration across our services, leading to better reported outcomes for consumers.”

Wellington Free Ambulance Chief Executive David Robinson says the CRT model meant the team could offer more individualised solutions and timely expert advice.

“This joint response has had an extremely positive impact, providing multi-dimensional support to those experiencing mental health distress in our community,” says David Robinson.

“As the first interagency response of its kind in New Zealand, it is a privilege as an emergency service to be part of the Co-Response Team with our partner agencies, Wellington District Police and Capital & Coast District Health Board DHB.”

Relevant agencies and stakeholders, including the Police, Capital & Coast DHB and Wellington Free Ambulance, are now taking time to consider the findings with a view to determining next steps both in Wellington and nationally.


Issued by Police Media Centre

A link to the evaluation report can be found here: