Queenslanders experiencing a mental health crisis will have greater access to enhanced mental health services with the expansion of a highly successful collaboration between the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) and Queensland Health.
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath MP said following a successful pilot program in Southeast Queensland, the Mental Health Co-responder Program would be expanded to other parts of the State. “In 2019 the Palaszczuk Government provided funding for the QAS to pilot a Mental Health Co-responder Program with Queensland Health and Hospital and Health Services (HHS),” the Minister said.
“The program pairs a specialist Paramedic with a Senior Mental Health Clinician from the HHS to provide a first, timely and appropriate health response to patients experiencing a mental health crisis.
“The results speak for themselves, with the QAS able to facilitate access to appropriate follow up and referrals for more than 1,000 patients during the pilot period in the Metro South, West Moreton and Gold Coast regions.
“Due to the success of the program the Palaszczuk Government is providing funding to expand the service into Metro North, Cairns, Townsville and the Sunshine Coast.
“This means better healthcare outcomes for Queenslanders and a reduction in Emergency Department presentations, which has flow on effects for the entire health system.”
Last year the QAS responded to more than 60,000 people experiencing a mental health crisis, a 23 per cent increase from the previous year, representing around 13 per cent of QAS Triple Zero (000) calls.
“More than 80 per cent of people experiencing a mental health crisis, accessing services via Triple Zero (000), are in a complex, multi-faceted crisis, unfortunately including suicide crisis,” Minister D’Ath said.
“Historically, most people seen by paramedics in a mental health crisis were transported to a hospital Emergency Department. “It’s recognised that first responders are in a unique position to determine the course and outcome of a patient’s mental health crisis, which is why the expansion of this service is so important.”
QAS Commissioner Russell Bowles said the QAS was always looking for innovative ways to respond to the community.
“This is the same assessment and treatments which would otherwise be provided in a hospital, but they’re undertaken in the patient’s own environment in approximately 90 minutes,” Commissioner Bowles said.
“Around 65 per cent of patients are able to stay at home with tailored treatments and we know increased involvement and utilisation of carers in an individual’s own comfortable environment in a crisis, is exactly what those with a lived experience of mental health need.”