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Police team with mental health experts at COVID crisis call-outs

Mental health clinicians will accompany police to call outs across the Gold Coast to deal with increased cases linked to mental health issues triggered by COVID-19, as police prepare for a potential flood of tourists to the city for school holidays and the opening of the border.

Jun 26, 2020, updated Jun 26, 2020
Police are partnering with mental health experts as COVID triggers mental health issues. (Photo: ABC News)

Police are partnering with mental health experts as COVID triggers mental health issues. (Photo: ABC News)

More than 40 police officers have been deployed to the Mental Health Co-Responder unit in a significant boost to the program that will deliver mental health support for cases across the city for the first time.

Gold Coast District Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said COVID-related stress was contributing to disturbances.

“Anecdotally, we are seeing more calls for service that are influenced by mental health issues,” Wheeler told InQueensland.

“We’ve identified the unemployment that has resulted from the COVID response, the economic stress on people, the stress of being confined, the stress of knowing we are in a pandemic will have an effect on people.

“This is a small step but it’s a really important one.”

The mental health focus comes as Gold Coast police gear up for an influx of visitors to the city for the school holidays following the lifting of state travel restrictions and the anticipated border opening from July 10.

As many as 85 Gold Coast police will return from patrolling Queensland’s closed border if the State Government opens the borders from July 10.

“There’s been the Australia-wide campaign about visiting Queensland and visiting the Gold Coast,” Wheeler said.

“We are well aware of what happens when we get influxes of people.”

He said road trauma was a major concern.

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“Once they (borders) open up, whenever they open up, we’ll have more traffic coming through, but our road policing units will be back online to do what they do best, our Rapid Action Patrol teams will be back out interdicting crime, taking proactive measures, doing operations, doing search warrants, targeting high-risk offenders, making sure that we have patrols at the right times I the right places,” he said.

Police at the blocked border have been handling an average 100,000 vehicles a day, securing 17 border entry points including five checkpoints, of which three have been open 24 hours a day, seven days a week since March.

“We’ve been really selective in the police we’ve put down there. We’ve used our road policing units, we’ve used one team for 28-day roster period of our Rapid Action Patrols police and we’ve used our and bike squad from Surfers Paradise,” Wheeler said.

“What we’ve been very deliberate on is not taking resources from our general duties, our first responders.

“We’ve managed to find, I think, an appropriate balance between our border security requirements and responsibilities and what we call business as usual.”

This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas

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