A trial of a mental health response team in Wellington has been deemed a success, with emergency department demand decreasing "significantly" as a result.
The trial took place between March 2020 to March 2021 and saw staff from three agencies – Wellington Free Ambulance, police and Capital and Coast District Health Board responding to mental health call-outs together as the Wellington Co-Response Team (CRT)
Police Community Focus Manager, Inspector Brent Register says the trial has been a huge success.
"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."
An evaluation report of the CRT by the University of Otago Department of Psychological Medicine showed it significantly decreased strain on hospital emergency departments.
On days where a CRT was on shift, less than a third of service users were sent to the emergency department (32 per cent) compared to almost half when there was no CRT (45 per cent).
In the month following CRT intervention, people were less likely to re-present to hospital when compared to the control group and most CRT call-outs resulted in the person staying in the community.
Fionnagh Dougan, chief executive of Hutt Valley and Capital & Coast DHB, says it's important people get tailored support.
"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 agencies involved in the CRT as well as key stakeholders are now taking time to evaluate the findings of the trial and decide what the next steps are, both in Wellington and nationally.