The nature of police involvement in mental health transfers
During the course of their duties, police regularly have contact with mentally ill persons who are experiencing psychiatric crisis and require some form of mental health transfer. This study examined 2611 unique mental health transfers completed by police in the Australian state of Victoria over an eight-month period in 2009–2010. The overwhelming majority of mental health transfers performed by police during this period were the result of unplanned calls for assistance. Although police frequently requested assistance from other services, these were often not available. The study findings support a substantial body of anecdotal evidence from police citing lengthy involvement with people experiencing mentally illness, with the average mental health transfer consuming 2.5 h of police time. The frontline responses of police to people in psychiatric crisis need to be more formally acknowledged and creative solutions need to be sought with health and welfare services to better meet the needs of those who are falling between the cracks of community mental health care services.
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