The NSWPF Mental Health Intervention Team (MHIT) has consolidated itself at the forefront of policing and mental health in Australia and New Zealand and continues to evolve to meet the complex challenges posed by mental health and suicide prevention issues.
Corporate Sponsor's Message
In 2020 the NSW Police Force continues its focus on providing a proactive policing response to people within our community living with a mental illness.
Mental Health continues to be a significant health issue across all communities. It’s impact on the quality of life for the consumer, their families and health professionals are substantial. Our challenge is to build upon the good work of police who are continually confronted with increasing volume of incidents which can be quite complex. The NSW Police Force is committed to improving the capability of Police Officers and other frontline staff through effective training of de-escalation techniques, management and referral options for persons affected by mental illness and disorders. We will continue to align ourselves with the objectives of the Memorandum of Understanding 2018, working closely with NSW Health and other key agencies to improve safety and build confidence in protecting vulnerable persons.
The NSWPF Mental Health Intervention Team (MHIT), continues to evolve to meet the complex challenges posed by mental health and suicide prevention issues within the community.
In 2019, the NSW Police Force responded to 54,571 mental health related incidents across the State. One in five persons within the community suffers from a mental health issue in any given year, and over half of us will experience a mental health issue at some stage during our lifetime. As a result, the number of mental health incidents the NSWPF are called upon to attend and resolve continues to grow exponentially each year.
The Mental Health Intervention Team remains committed to the task of better preparing our frontline officers to meet this challenge. The two-day Mental Health Enhanced Police Practice Module is now into its twelfth year of delivery and has resulted in 3000 officers becoming trained as specialists and assuming the role of prioritised first responders to mental health related incidents within their police area commands and police districts. Over 65 officers from other Policing jurisdictions and health professionals from across Australia and New Zealand have also undertaken the program.
In 2015, we saw the completion of a two year roll out of the One Day Mental Health Training 2014/15. This program saw 16,141 officers trained in mental health and suicide intervention. Further, this one-day program is delivered to each recruit class as they progressed through their initial training at the NSWPF Academy at Goulburn. The One Day MH Workshop continues to be delivered to every recruit class at the Academy ensuring 100 percent of officers are capably trained. It is a major achievement for the NSWPF to deliver a two-tiered mental health training program.
On 24 April 2020 NSW Health announced funding of $73 million to help support the mental health and wellbeing of people across NSW. A large portion of this money has been invested into two projects which will assist not only the community living in Metropolitan areas, but also Regional areas. The PACER (Police, Ambulance, Clinician, Early Response) Model is being trialled at 12 sites across Sydney and the Central Coast. The PACER model centres on a dedicated joint police and mental health response. The aim of the project is to provide the most appropriate care for mental health consumers, reducing Emergency Department presentations and increasing assessment and referral capabilities in the out of hospital setting. Mental Health Clinicians are available in real time and can be deployed to the site to assist a person in crisis.
Virtual PACER is designed specifically for Regional areas of NSW and is a similar model to PACER, the difference being the Accredited person or Medical Officer is accessed via AVL.
I again commend the excellent work being performed by the MHIT and recommend them to you as a valuable source of information, expertise and liaison within the mental health and suicide prevention space in NSW.
Assistant Commissioner Leanne McCusker APM
Corporate Sponsor - Mental Health
The Mental Health Intervention Team (MHIT) commenced within the NSW Police Force as a two-year pilot program in July 2007. Following a study of best practice across the world with regards to Policing and mental health, the MHIT formed its basis on the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) concept which bears its origins in Memphis, Tennessee. The Memphis Crisis Intervention Team model was modified to meet the needs and operating environment of the NSW Police Force, and a partnership was formed with key stakeholders such as NSW Health, the Schizophrenia Fellowship and other agencies to achieve its objectives. NSW Health supported the MHIT program by funding the secondment of a senior mental health clinician to provide advice on the overall program design, content expertise with regards to the development of an MHIT training package for frontline police and to provide clinical expertise and organisational linkage between the MHIT and the health setting service providers. Charles Sturt University was engaged by the NSWPF to independently evaluate the MHIT, through its Centre for Inland Health, the school of Policing Studies and the Australian Graduate School of Policing.
The aims of the pilot program included:
- Reducing the risk of injury to police and mental health consumers when dealing with mental health related incidents;
- Improving awareness amongst front line police of the risks involved in the interaction between police and mental health consumers;
- Improved collaboration with other government and non-government agencies in the response to, and management of, mental health crisis incidents, and;
- Reducing the time taken by police in the handover of mental health consumers into the health care system.
In consultation with both clinical and operational policing-based experts, an intensive four-day MHIT education package was developed during the pilot program. The package was designed specifically to provide frontline Police officers with a practical skill set that will assist them with managing those persons within the community who are experiencing a mental health crisis event or who have suicidal ideation. The package seeks to educate Police with respect to identifying signs and symptoms in the field indicative of mental illness, and provide them with tools such as communication strategies, risk assessment, de-escalation and crisis intervention techniques, and to gain an understanding of the current Mental Health Act and the accompanying Memorandum of Understanding between the NSW Health and NSW Police Force 2018. The training also includes a powerful lived experience component presented by a panel of mental health consumers and a carer/next of kin.
Following the success of the pilot program and positive outcomes from the independent evaluation of the MHIT by Charles Sturt University, the Commissioner’s Executive Team endorsed the formation of the MHIT as a permanent unit of the NSW Police Force Operational Programs Command as of the 1st of July 2009.
Today, the team consists of a Manager, Coordinator and a Senior Mental Health Clinician and are responsible for shaping policy, strategy, training and operational tactics for the NSWPF with regards to mental health and suicide prevention related issues. To date the MHIT have trained 3000 officers from across the State in the now 2 day revised Mental Health Enhanced Police Practice Module training program. The officers that complete this program are accredited as specialist Mental Health Intervention Officers and are clearly identified by the wearing of a distinct metal MHIT Badge above their name plate. Upon graduation, MHIT trained officers assume the role of prioritised first responders to mental health related incidents within their commands. The MHIT has also trained one Inspector/Duty Officer within each of the 32 Police Area Commands and 26 Police Districts across the State, and these officers assume the role of Mental Health Contact Officer and local advocate for mental health related issues.
The MHIT regularly presents on proactive policing approaches to mental health to consumer and carers groups across NSW and have also been guest speakers on mental health and suicide prevention related topics to specialist forums across NSW.
The MHIT developed a one-day mental health training and awareness package which was rolled out state-wide from February 2014 to all officers in NSW. This one-day package was also integrated into the curriculum for recruits at the NSW Police Force Academy. As of December 2015, the MHIT was successful in training over 16,141 officers in the one-day workshop and achieved its goal of having all officers across the State trained in mental health and suicide awareness and intervention. The two-day training package will continue to be delivered, thus establishing a two-tiered mental health training capability for the NSWPF, with all officers receiving a minimum of one day’s mental health awareness and response training and selected graduates progressing to the two-day program to become MHIT specialists.
The MHIT continues to work closely with our service partners to strive for better outcomes for mental health consumers and their next of kin and carers including more dignified transitions into care and recovery, to promote awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide within the community.
The MHIT will continue to evolve to meet new challenges within the community that relate to mental health and suicide prevention and are working closely with our service partners with regards to some innovative new programs that will build upon our existing capabilities for response and resolution of incidents in this space.
NSW Health - NSW Police Force Memorandum of Understanding 2018
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been updated to reflect the amended Mental Health Act 2007 No 8. In addition, NSW Health and NSW Police Force agreed to broaden the MOU beyond people with a mental illness or mental disorder. The MOU now includes a section on patients in police custody who are brought to a health facility and a section on the management of public safety issues in health facilities.
The MOU sets out the principles to guide how staff from NSW Health and NSW Police will work together when responding to and delivering care and treatment to people accessing these services. It provides a framework that focusses on interagency cooperation to deliver care to patients in a safe environment. The MOU promotes a flexible, solution focussed approach to decision-making to provide for the wellbeing and safety of the patient and the safety of staff involved in their care.