State Government Victoria Australia Department of Health header
State Government Victoria
Victorian Government Health Information
Health Home
Main A to Z Index | Site Map | About Health  

October 2014

People infront of police station jpeg
Peninsula Health’s Dwight Smith and Sarah Coffey, Frankston-Peninsula Medicare Local’s Angela Yerolemou, Senior Sergeant Dean Clinton, Sergeant Patrick Hayes and Peninsula Health’s Adrian Griffin. (Picture courtesy of Frankston-Mornington Peninsula Medicare Local)

Team sets the pace

A PACER (Police, Ambulance and Clinician Early Response) program is reducing the number of mental health presentations to the Frankston Hospital emergency department and cutting Victoria Police callout times.

Sarah Coffey is one of two Peninsula Health Mental Health Clinicians working with local police to respond to mental health related call-outs.

Ms Coffey and her colleague Dwight Smith are members of the PACER program and work collaboratively with police and ambulance services to assess and treat people experiencing mental health-related crisies in the community.

‘Essentially, what we do is act as a support to the responding police units when they are attending an incident,’ said Ms Coffey.

‘By placing a mental health clinician in the peak of the situation, nine times out of 10 we are able to defuse the situation and treat and support clients in their own home.

‘By providing an on the spot response, we are often able to avoid the person being transferred to the emergency department by police or ambulance.’

Since the introduction of the program in April, there has already been a significant impact on the reduction of police transfers to Frankston Hospital ED.

‘We have attended 175 call outs since April and only 24 of those required transports to Frankston Hospital,’ said Ms Coffey.

‘Before the program, all 175 incidents would have required transfer to the emergency department via ambulance with a police chaperone.

‘This means that there have been 151 fewer trips to the ED by the police and 151 fewer ambulances required to transport them.’

Ms Coffey said the PACER approach had also had a positive impact on the continuing treatment of patients and their families.

‘Often, in the sort of the situations we attend, the patients will feel that they are ‘in trouble’ and that they have done something wrong because the police are there.

‘By bringing in someone in a therapeutic role rather than an authoritative role we are able to provide support for the patients as well as their families.

‘Once we see a patient, it is often a matter of de-escalating the situation, treating them and then referring them into the most appropriate path of care.

‘We often work with people who have existing mental illness as well as those who are having acute one-off episodes,’ Ms Coffey said.

‘The follow-up course of care we provide can be anything from making contact with the person’s GP or existing case manager to admitting them directly into an inpatient unit.

‘It is better for everybody if we are able to treat people in a familiar environment where they feel safe rather than taking them into hospital unnecessarily.’

The PACER Program is a Commonwealth Government-funded partnership between Peninsula Health, Victoria Police and Frankston-Mornington Peninsula Medicare Local and is run seven days a week out of the Frankston Police Station.

It is made up of two two-person teams of police and mental health clinicians and provides a secondary response service to all of Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula as well as areas of Casey.