Townsville residents experiencing a mental health crisis now have access to enhanced mental health services with the expansion of a highly successful collaboration between the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) and Queensland Health.
Today marks the first shift for a specialist co-responder unit which pairs a paramedic with a Senior Mental Health Clinician from the Townsville Hospital and Health Service to provide timely and appropriate health response to patients experiencing a mental health crisis.
Investing in health services to support Queenslanders is an important part of the Palaszczuk Government’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan.
Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Yvette D’Ath MP said that last financial year, the QAS responded to more than 58,000 incidents of people experiencing a mental health crisis, which is more than a 20 per cent increase over the last three financial years.
“More than 80 per cent of people experiencing a mental health crisis and 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 and it’s recognised that first responders are in a unique position to determine the course and outcome of a person’s mental health crisis.
“That’s why 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.
“I am pleased that this incredibly important program has now been extended into Townsville, and I thank the hardworking frontline health and ambulance staff who make it possible.”
Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper said a review of the first 12 months of the program revealed the collaboration had achieved remarkable outcomes for Queenslanders experiencing a mental health crisis, as well as for the entire health system.
“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,” Mr Harper said.
“Due to the success of the program, the Palaszczuk Government has now provided funding to expand the service into Townsville.”
Member for Mundingburra Les Walker said finding alternative pathways for treatment meant better healthcare outcomes for Townsville residents and a reduction in emergency department presentations, which has flow on effects for the entire health system.
“A co-responder model ensures patients are treated appropriately in a safe setting and have access to specialist mental health care in a timely fashion,” Mr Walker said.
“Deploying mental health experts on the frontline is a major boost in combating this crisis which afflicts so many in our community.”
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,” 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.”