Submission to the NSW Legislative Council Inquiry into the equity, accessibility and appropriate delivery of outpatient and community mental health care in NSW

PIAC has made a submission to a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the equity, accessibility and appropriate delivery of outpatient and community mental health care in NSW. Our submission addresses paragraph (i) of the Terms of Reference, regarding alternatives to police for emergency responses to people experiencing acute mental distress, psychosis, delirium, dementia or intoxication in the community.

The submission highlights concerns previously raised by PIAC, and more recently by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission, about NSW Police as first responders. It also addresses the Police, Ambulance, Clinical, Early, Response (PACER) program, and draws attention to relevant research on alternative models being used elsewhere in Australia and internationally.

The recommendations in this submission focus on three principal issues:

  1. possible alternatives to police as first responders, to be considered alongside ensuring police receive adequate training, recognising that police are often the de facto first responders to crises, particularly for vulnerable people; 
  2. the PACER program in NSW, which we recommend be comprehensively evaluated from both community safety and health perspectives, to identify opportunities to increase its effectiveness, and increased funding for NSW Health, Ambulance NSW and programs such as PACER to increase the number of health first responders; and 
  3. the need for consultation with communities and community-led organisations, which will identify opportunities to support and increase the capacity of alternatives to police as first responders, and opportunities to adequately fund further research and pilot programs

PIAC’s submission also enclosed a copy of the Policing Public Space Report published by PIAC and Homelessness NSW in 2021, for the parliamentary committee’s consideration.

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