PACER Unit a step closer
Published at: 14 May 2019
Police and mental health workers came a step closer to providing a ‘‘vital’’ new service for the region yesterday, with representatives from Victoria Police and Goulburn Valley Health signing a memorandum of understanding for a new program.
Dubbed the PACER, or Police and Clinician Emergency Response unit, the program aims to put trained medical staff in the field alongside police to help assess and direct in call-out instances that may contain a mental health component.
Victoria Police Superintendent Matthew Ryan said the program had taken years to develop and had been successfully trialled in other areas of Victoria.
‘‘Sadly, police frequently get asked as a first response unit to attend somewhere where somebody is displaying signs of distress and that maybe doing things that are unsafe,’’ Superintendent Ryan said.
‘‘We know that police are much better at dealing with people in those circumstances than they used to be, but we don’t pretend to be psychologists.’’
As part of the new program, a registered psychiatric nurse will be stationed at Shepparton police station to work in conjunction with an officer dedicated to the unit.
Other police on the beat will be able to call in the PACER unit when they suspect someone of suffering from poor mental health.
Registered psychiatric nurse Linda Bryant was part of the pilot program when it was being developed half-a-decade ago and was instrumental in seeing it brought to Shepparton.
Ms Bryant said the PACER Unit would not only deal with the mentally unwell but could assess issues of drug or alcohol abuse as well.
‘‘As far as I’m concerned, I can respond to anything and direct those people to the services they need,’’ she said.
‘‘Even if it’s not a mental health issue, I can say, ‘This would be a great service for you to contact’, and make those referrals.’’
The new unit will free up valuable policing and health services, while streamlining access to the correct mental health help, according to Goulburn Valley Health chief executive Matt Sharp.
‘‘It is important that people experiencing mental health issues can access timely, high quality care,’’ he said.
‘‘PACER assistance offers an early response to situations that require mental health advice ranging from assessment of a person’s mental health to more tailored mental health strategies to ensure people receive the most appropriate care.’’
Another benefit of the program will be the sharing of resources and information between police and mental health workers, according to Ms Bryant.
‘‘So they can understand how we work a bit more effectively and we can understand how they can work a bit more effectively,’’ she said.