Police disappointed in scrapping of mental health pilot scheme

National’s spokesperson on the police, Chris Bishop, has uncovered the scrapping of a pilot project that would have added mental health expertise to front line policing.

The Government’s decision to axe a universally-supported pilot to improve the response to 111 mental health calls is nothing short of disgraceful, especially after Labour pledged to make mental health a priority, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“It has been revealed that Labour has scrapped a pilot in which a mental health nurse would attend mental health incidents alongside police and paramedics to ensure that people in distress receive timely responses that are tailored to their needs.

“Police spend around 280 hours a day responding to mental health calls. They do a good job, but are not mental health professionals so having a mental health nurse deployed to incidents with police would make a real difference.

“The increasing demand on police to respond to mental health crises is set to continue. That’s why the National Government set aside $8 million for the pilot as part of our $100 million mental health package.

“Police Minister Stuart Nash confirmed in answers to written questions the day of the Police Estimates hearing that the pilot would be canned, yet Police Commissioner Mike Bush told the hearing that police were very hopeful it would continue – in front of Mr Nash.

“Mr Nash has admitted that police are dealing with more and more mental health cases. The pilot would have eased pressure on police and improved the quality of the response for those experiencing mental distress.

RNZ: Police disappointed after mental health pilot dropped

Police officers are upset a proposal to improve 111 callouts has been dumped and mental health advocates hope it may yet be salvaged.

The former National government last year announced an $8 million pilot scheme where mental health workers would attend crisis calls along with police and ambulance staff.

The trial was due to start in September, but police headquarters said the new government had “re-allocated” the funding and so the pilot had been dropped.

Police Association president Chris Cahill said the decision was “disappointing” and officers needed practical support “sooner rather than later”.

“It’s all good to have inquiries and to have think-tanks, but people need help now. They’re crying out for it.”

Front-line officers were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of calls relating to mental health, he said.

“Police aren’t the best equipped to do this. It needs to be people in mental health services who look after them. It’s a medical issue, not a policing issue.”

Health Minister fobbed off queries.

Health Minister David Clark turned down an interview request, but in a statement said the proposal “was never fully developed” and it appeared National had cobbled it together in a hurry.

He expected the government’s mental health inquiry, announced in January, would include advice on how to improve the emergency response, he said.

How long will that take? What if that inquiry recommends the pilot project or something similar? Labour said there was a mental health crisis, but they are not acting like it is a pressing problem now.

The Mental Health Foundation…

…had been supportive of the scheme and its chief executive Shaun Robinson said it was a shame to see it fall by the wayside.

“The police have unfortunately been left to be the mental health service of last resort.”

Mr Robinson said he would be keeping a close eye on the inquiry’s findings and was hopeful it would come up with a similar or even better idea.

“We would really hope to see that there’s something significant in the crisis response area,” he said.

“It may be a short-term loss for a longer-term gain.”

Fiona Howard, from Mental Health Advocacy and Peer Support in Christchurch…

…also hoped the inquiry would report back with a similar project.

She said she empathised with police frustration, but understood the government’s approach to first assess the entire mental health system.

“What I hope is that we can sort of pause – even though I know it’s hard to wait – to make sure that we get all the results from that inquiry in to make sure all parts of our system that are under stress get the resourcing and new initiatives they need.”

Reporting back with a similar project, and then implementing it, will take some time. Scrapping the pilot scheme seems very strange.

Leave a comment


  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  17th July 2018

    A know-nothing government awaits another inquiry.

  2. David

     /  17th July 2018

    Why would Labour worry about mental health now, its been used for electoral purposes already.

  3. David

     /  17th July 2018

    One thing with Clark is if its not his idea he is quick to dump it regardless of whether it could be of benefit to NZers. Bit of a small minded approach and displays quite some immaturity and lack of confidence.

  4. lurcher1948

     /  17th July 2018

    If they never had it, how can they be disappointed and why didn’t they ask for it over the previous 9 years…a fair question i feel

    • Zedd

       /  17th July 2018

      well said Lurch.. Natl are pointing out all these ‘issues’ that they say this Govt. are failing on.. BUT what did they do about it for 9 loooooong years ? 😦

      • Gezza

         /  17th July 2018

        They underfunded it. But then they started to look at what things the evidence showed & consider & fund a targeted workable scheme that everyone supported, is needed, & might have yielded some actual useful benefits, results, & DATA to inform the Corrections & Justice & Mental Health Reviews.

    • High Flying Duck

       /  17th July 2018

      It sounds like it was much needed and that was why National allocated the $8m while it was still in power.
      The Police and mental health services were all supporting it.
      The fair question would be what the hell are Labour doing?

      • Blazer

         /  17th July 2018

        ‘Police spend around 280 hours a day responding to mental health calls’…horseshit.

  5. Alloytoo

     /  17th July 2018

    Even the abject failure of the pilot would have informed future decision making as much as its potential success. Canceling makes no sense.

    This government is a curious beast very willing to revisit policy failures of the past, but not willing to try new approaches to stubbon problems.

    The cynic in me says, this was just another low profile project canned to toss the cash into an eleven billion dollar hole

    • Even if they sent some police on a training course in mental illness of the kind that they will meet, it would help. They don’t need to be experts, as they won’t be following it up at the hospitals.

      • Exactly, Alloy.

        A local business training course counts it as a success if someone then decides not to go into business, as it’s better to have wasted the time that the course takes than start a business which fails because the market was misjudged or for any other reason.

        A pilot scheme that failed would show what was needed for the next one to work.

  6. Gezza

     /  17th July 2018

    Health Minister David Clark turned down an interview request, but in a statement said the proposal “was never fully developed” and it appeared National had cobbled it together in a hurry.

    If it was a pilot scheme it would’ve INFORMED the bloody review, FFS!

    I’d love to hear Mike King’s view on this. We’re ALL sick to death of bureaucrats & working parties mouthing platitudes & showing each other powerpoint presentations on what needs more investigation & what MIGHT be possible, eventually.

    Clark’s a tosser. He’s another bloody vacuum inside a cranium.

  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  17th July 2018

    What happened to inequality and homelessness? Has it been fixed? Where are the reassuring numbers?

  8. The trotter may Trott but the walker always walks…

  9. Expansion is good for the beneficiary’s in the southern and northern corridors

  10. Greengrocers don’t always shop in the green isles

  1. Police disappointed in scrapping of mental health pilot scheme — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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