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New mental health post for nurses at police stations in NSW

Mental health nurses will now be based at a number of police stations across NSW as part of the Government’s response to a growing mental health crisis.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that 36 mental health nurses will be placed across 10 police stations following on from a pilot program which saw a 15 per cent reduction in mental health casesdealt with by police in some areas and a reduction in hospital presentations due to mental health issues by 9 per cent, according to NSW Police

The nurses will be part of the Police, Ambulance and Clinical Early Response (PACER) program which offers expert support to police and ambulance officers called to mental health emergencies. The program will operate in Campbelltown, Nepean, Northern Beaches, Sutherland Shire, Blacktown, Eastern Beaches, Ku-ring-gai, Metro Combined (Kings Cross, Surry Hills, City of Sydney), South Sydney and Bankstown police districts.

Police in NSW currently deal with mental health related incidents 1000 times a week, according to Police Minister David Elliott, and attended 55,000 incidents in 2019.

Elliot said in trials of the program, the time an officer dealt with a case involving mental health was reduced by 45 minutes, so an expansion of the program “makes good economic sense”.

“It’s good for the taxpayers of NSW, but it is also good for the patients that are finding themselves in contact with police,” Elliot said.

The program is part of a larger effort to respond to mental health in the state after a summer of bushfire devastation and now a pandemic and a failing economy.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that $73 million will be invested into mental health and part of that package will see 180 mental health workers deployed across the state.

This will also increase capacity for an extra 60,000 calls in the next 12 months to the 1800 NSW Mental Health Line and see the creation of pop-up mental health Safe Space sites to reduce pressure on emergency departments.

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