By Juliano Oliveira
Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) and Queensland Health will expand care services for patients at a mental health crisis level in Metro North, Cairns, Townsville, and the Sunshine Coast.
Initiated in 2019 as a pilot project, the Mental Health Co-responder Program pairs a specialist paramedic with a senior mental health clinician to provide the first response to patients in need.
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath MP said the program opens the way for better healthcare outcomes for Queenslanders.
“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”, Minister D’Ath said.
“More than 80% of people experiencing a mental health crisis, accessing services via Triple Zero (000), are in a complex, multi-faceted crisis, unfortunately including suicide crisis.”
The first responders will determine how the situation will be dealt with and the proper forwarding to calls from patients experiencing a mental health crisis.
“Historically, most people seen by paramedics in a mental health crisis were transported to a hospital Emergency Department”, Minister D’Ath said.
QAS Commissioner Russell Bowles said the QAS responded to more than 60,000 people experiencing a mental health crisis, a 23% increase from the previous year, representing around 13% of QAS Triple Zero (000) calls.
“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% 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.”