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Revelations that the Government has stepped in to save the Te Kūwatawata mental health service in Gisborne is great news, but only raises further questions about why the Government scrapped the Police/mental health co-response pilot planned for this year to near-universal acclaim by Police and the health sector, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says. 

“David Clark’s excuse for dumping the $8 million pilot, which was funded in Budget 2017, was that it would be premature to fund it while the Mental Health Inquiry was underway. This excuse was always a poor one, as has been shown by his boasting about saving the Te Kūwatawata service.

“The police/mental health co-response pilot would have seen mental health nurse attending mental health incidents alongside police and paramedics to ensure that people in distress receive timely responses that are tailored to their needs. Police spend around 280 hours a day responding to mental health calls and demand is increasing. The pilot would have eased pressure on police and improved the quality of the response for those experiencing mental distress.

“It still beggars belief that this Government would axe the potentially game-changing pilot which had universal support from those on the frontline dealing with mental health, including mental health expert Nigel Fairley who said in February that the pilot was ‘top of his spending list.’ Even Police Commissioner Mike Bush told the Justice Committee in May that he hoped the pilot would still go ahead.

“If David Clark can step in to save one mental health service while the Mental Health Inquiry is underway, why can’t he step in to save something that everyone working in the sector agrees is a great idea?”

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