Mental health clinicians in Police Area Commands welcomed

A decision to expand the NSW Government’s Police Ambulance and Clinical Early Response (PACER) pilot and place 36 mental health clinicians in 10 Police Area Commands and Districts has been welcomed by the Law Society of NSW.

 The PACER program is designed to provide a specialist mental health early response to people experiencing a mental health crisis and has been successfully trialled in the St George Police Area Command. 

The NSW Government has announced the PACER program will expand to Campbelltown, Nepean, Northern Beaches, Sutherland Shire, Blacktown, Eastern Beaches, Ku-ring-gai, and Metro Combined consisting of Kings Cross/Surry Hills/City of Sydney, South Sydney and Bankstown Police Area Commands.

President of the Law Society, Richard Harvey, said it's been shown that early intervention support can significantly reduce the number of people with a mental illness who end up in the criminal justice system.

“These specialist mental health clinicians will be able to provide better support and appropriate care to vulnerable people at their time of greatest need.” he said.

“This can help reduce the incidence of our early responders having to use force when responding to a mental health emergency situation – and can ultimately prevent the situation from escalating.

“As legal practitioners know, this can be crucial to ensuring someone with a mental illness receives the support they require, when they need it, and prevent them from ending up in the criminal justice system.

 “Importantly, the presence of a mental health clinician also provides our first responders with the support they need to deal with these situations.”

Mr Harvey said people with mental health impairments are already over-represented throughout the criminal justice system. 

"Early intervention, provided through programs like PACER, cannot only help prevent people from spending a lifetime in the criminal justice system, but also reduce the financial cost to the community," he said.

Mr Harvey also emphasised the need for increased diversion at all stages of the criminal justice system for people with cognitive and mental health impairments. 

"Effective diversion requires offenders to engage with appropriate and adequately resourced treatment and service providers, and the Law Society will continue to advocate for improved services in this regard." he said.