SDHB investigates crisis response

The Southern District Health Board has confirmed it investigated an incident in which a Queenstown man was detained by police while waiting seven hours for a mental health assessment.

It comes as the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) this week released its own report into the October 2017 incident following a complaint by the man, who was taken to the Queenstown police station.

The health board also said it was looking to boost mental health provision in the Wakatipu.

The IPCA found police acted "unlawfully" by detaining the man following a suicide attempt, but that their actions were "reasonable in the circumstances".

Its report also highlighted increasing pressure on police to respond to mental health incidents.

Police statistics reveal Queenstown-Lakes police have received 130 reports of mental health and threatens/attempts suicide incidents since January.

DHB mental health, addictions and intellectual disability general manager Louise Travers said it was working to provide a more timely mental health crisis response service in the Wakatipu between midnight and 8.30am.

At present,  the Southland-based mental health emergency team covers the Wakatipu area  during those hours.

"Crisis calls are responded to promptly when they are received between 8.30am and midnight, and we are currently recruiting for an after-hours duly authorised officer on call to be based in Queenstown.

"Responses across the district can vary depending on individual circumstances, their triage priority and distances for travel, as in this situation, from Invercargill to Queenstown.

"Within the current triage process, an emergency response supports police, ambulance or fire as the first responder, whereas an urgent mental health response ideally occurs within four hours."

The IPCA report outlined how the supervising sergeant was "disappointed" with the DHB response, after he was told duly authorised officers would have to travel from Invercargill because the Queenstown service had closed for the night.

Invercargill mental health staff did not arrive in Queenstown until seven hours later. They assessed the man and authorised his release.

"The Authority found that police did not have legal authority to take the man into custody, or to detain him at the police station overnight," the report reads.

"However, police took steps to ensure the man’s immediate safety, and the delay in obtaining a mental health assessment was beyond police control."

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