Multi-agency team responding to mental health emergencies leads to better outcomes

By having emergency services work together to attend to mental health emergencies, the person in crisis is less likely to end up in hospital, according to a study from the University of Otago in New Zealand.

The co-response team, made up of police, ambulance and mental health personnel, was evaluated in the capital Wellington from March 2020 to March 2021. This is the first time a multi-agency emergency response team has been tried in New Zealand.

The study of the University of Otago program is published in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.

Lead author Associate Professor Susanna Every-Palmer, of the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Otago, Wellington, says that on the days when a co-response team was available, mental health emergency calls were resolved faster and with better outcomes.

“People seen by the co-response team were more likely to receive support in the community and 30 percent less likely to wait long hours in the emergency department for a mental health assessment. They did it the following month also better, because they are less likely to go to an emergency department or be hospitalized.”

Associate Professor Every-Palmer says it was exciting to see the collaborative co-response model improve outcomes.

“Innovative approaches like the co-response team are desperately needed for people going through a mental health crisis. In recent years, reporting data has shown a surge in demand, putting pressure on emergency services.”

Calls to the police for mental health events have increased by 60 percent in the past five years.

Associate Professor Every-Palmer says co-response teams have been tried to reduce the risk of the capacities of police, ambulances and emergency departments being overwhelmed and that the person in crisis becomes more upset or inappropriately held in police cells.

“Evidence has shown that co-response teams reduce the likelihood of using a subpoena, using force, or waiting for hours in the emergency room. The trial’s co-response team model was found to improve results. It was a collaborative decision cross-agency collaboration, enabling first responders to provide a more integrated and nuanced response to emergency calls involving mental health crises.”

Iwi and New Zealand Police’s Assistant Commissioner Chris de Wattignar say the co-response team was able to use the respective skills of each of their three professions to assess the situation, manage acute risks, assess health needs and take action. mental health assessments.

“The trial has shown a marked improvement in the results. The co-response team can prepare a management plan and involve the person and their family in the decision-making process where possible. Sometimes the emergency can be solved on the spot and sometimes the person has transportation to another location, such as a community mental health center for treatment If the person stays at home, management plans may include follow-up by their primary care physician, community mental health team, counselor, or the crisis team.

Chris de Wattignar says that as a result of the successful pilot, the Wellington co-response team model has been expanded and other districts are also coming on board, with co-response team trials that have taken place or are underway in Southern, Counties Manukau and Central police districts. Police and their partners continue to discuss the success of this process and the potential to expand it to other areas in the future.

Associate Professor Every-Palmer says that, in addition to analyzing the outcome data, the University of Otago research team conducted a series of interviews with more than 50 key stakeholders, including those who received support from a co-response team, their families, partner agencies and members of the co-response team and their managers.

“People thought having the co-response team was a game changer, with the team being able to provide prompt, expert mental health support and person-centred care in a way that reduced the risk of violence and coercion.” seeing a co-response team offers a better way to help people with psychological distress.”


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