Crisis averted: How consumers experienced a police and clinical early response (PACER) unit responding to a mental health crisis

Eloisa Evangelista, Stuart Lee, Angela Gallagher, Violeta Peterson, Jo James, Narelle Warren, Kathryn Henderson, Sandra Keppich-Arnold, Luke Cornelius, Elizabeth Deveny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


When mental health crisis situations in the community are poorly handled, it can result in physical and emotional injuries. The purpose of this study was to ascertain the experiences and opinions of consumers about the way police and mental health services worked together, specifically via the Alfred Police and Clinical Early Response (A-PACER) model, to assist people experiencing a mental health crisis. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 12 mental health consumers who had direct contact with the A-PACER team between June 2013 and March 2015. The study highlighted that people who encountered the A-PACER team generally valued and saw the benefit of a joint police-mental health clinician team response to a mental health crisis situation in the community. In understanding what worked well in how the A-PACER team operated, consumers perspectives can be summarized into five themes: communication and de-escalation, persistence of the A-PACER team, providing a quick response and working well under pressure, handover of information, and A-PACER helped consumers achieve a preferred outcome. All consumers acknowledged the complementary roles of the police officer and mental health clinician, and described the A-PACER team's supportive approach as critical in gaining their trust, engagement and in de-escalating the crises. Further education and training for police officers on how to respond to people with a mental illness, increased provision of follow-up support to promote rehabilitation and prevent future crises, and measures to reduce public scrutiny for the consumer when police responded, were proposed opportunities for improvement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-376
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Nursing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • consumer
  • joint response
  • mental health crisis
  • mental health service
  • police

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