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Emergency Services, Mental Health


WCMT & UQ 3 mins read

A Churchill Fellow from Western Australia says it’s time Australia followed other nations and simplified access to behavioural health crisis and suicide support, by introducing a three-digit crisis phone line that extends emergency offerings to include Mental Health support. 


Churchill Fellow, Glen Blackwell says with one in eight Australians contemplating suicide at some point in their lives, and one in four relying on a telephone service to get them through, it’s time these matters were considered a health emergency, rather than something requiring Police intervention. 


Ramping occurrences at hospitals would also be reduced, if the matter is considered a health issue from the outset. 


Governments should retake ownership of the behavioural health crisis and suicide as national health problems. This could help solve the crowded, confusing, and competitive environment of NFP organisations filling the gaps of an inefficient whole of government crisis health care model, Glen wrote in his research report Simplifying access to Behavioural Health Crisis and Suicide Support. 


The article is jointly presented by The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and The University of Queensland, as part of their partnership to develop the flagship publication Policy Futures: A Reform Agenda. This publication features succinct and timely policy articles written by Churchill Fellows and will be released at the Churchill Policy Room event at Australian Parliament House on 27June.  


The Churchill Policy Room event is part of the Policy Impact Program, the partnership between the University of Queensland and the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to showcase the research and recommendations of Churchill Fellows working in policy reform. 


Mr Blackwell believes establishing a national three-digit call line (e.g. 222) creates opportunities to meet national suicide plan objectives by: 


  • Returning over $400 million per year to government managed health systems with direct linkages to community care programs 
  • Fulfilling Australia’s suicide prevention strategy of 2020-2023 and pre-empting a new strategy call for a whole of government approach encompassing all portfolios 
  • Improving access to quality mental health services 
  • Reducing stigma and simplifying access to appropriate behavioural health crisis services providers 
  • Introducing national standardised service delivery and engagement of mental health service providers. 


Glen Blackwell was awarded his Churchill Fellowship in 2020 to investigate diversionary practices for mentally and intellectually disabled persons engaging with Police. Glen travelled to Canada, the UK, and USA. Glen has a career of over 30 years in policing and led mental health co-response teams as well as WA Health’s Mental Health Emergency Response Line. 


Quotes attributable to Glen Blackwell: 


“Government deference to volunteer NFP’s to fill crisis call service delivery compounds a reliance on and an overburdening of the 000-emergency system to service behavioural health crisis calls in the community.  


“The first 12 months of ‘988’ in the USA saw a 150% call rate increase from the previous ten-digit number with nearly 5 million contacts, enhancing access to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.


“Canada established a similar ‘988’ service late last year, while in England, the ‘111’ line was established in 2016 as a first response for mental health. 


“While in Austin, Texas, they’ve added a fourth service to their traditional ‘911’ calls, with mental health added to ambulance, fire and police calls. 


“The Federal Government can take some immediate steps – create a national three-digit crisis line number, create a fourth emergency response offering for the existing 000 service, and create a national Behavioural Health Crisis Receival Centre framework. 


“By establishing mental health as one of the options as part of an emergency call, it removes the automatic response of individuals in crisis requesting police for non–law enforcement emergencies. 



For more information on the Fellows featured in Policy Futures: A Reform Agenda, visit

Contact details:

Media contact: Matt Neagle | 0408 207 256 |


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