25 May, 2023
Ambulance mental health care enhanced
Toowoomba patients in crisis now have access to enhanced mental health services in their own home, thanks to the joint efforts of the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) and Queensland Health.
The Toowoomba Mental Health Co-Responder Service pairs a QAS senior paramedic with a senior mental health clinician from Darling Downs Health in order to deliver fast, collaborative specialist care.
The program, designed to better facilitate care from home, was born from a pilot trialled in South East Queensland in 2019 and has since been expanded into regional Queensland.
Historically, most people seen by paramedics in a mental health crisis are transported to a hospital Emergency Department.
This alternative model allows appropriate and timely care to instead be provided in people’s own homes.
QAS Mental Health Response Program Director Sandra Garner said the program has achieved remarkable outcomes for Queenslanders experiencing a mental health crisis, as well as the entire health system.
“Currently throughout the state our Mental Health
Co-responders see around 1,000 people in a mental health emergency each month,” Ms Garner said.
“Up to 70 per cent of these people are offered interventions and services in their own homes or environments.
“The QAS Mental Health Co-Responder provides the same type of assessment and treatments which would otherwise be provided in a hospital, but they’re undertaken in the patient’s own environment in approximately 90 minutes.
“We know increased use of carers in an environment someone is already comfortable in, is exactly what those with a lived experience of mental health need.”
The co-responder model is just one component of the QAS’ larger Mental Health Response Program, which
also includes a dedicated Mental Health Liaison Service embedded within the Brisbane Operations Centre 24 hours a day.