Last week Mr Rutherford, speaking as Chair of the National Preventative Mechanism which published its annual Monitoring Places of Detention report, said that “New Zealand is experiencing a crisis in regard to managing mental health needs of detainees. Various monitoring visits found unsuitable environments for people with mental health issues particularly in Police custodial facilities, in youth justice and care and protection residences.
“When a state deprives people of their liberty it has the responsibility to ensure that they receive adequate treatment for all their health needs, including mental health and that the conditions under which they are detained does not injure their health,” Mr Rutherford said.
The report called for the Ministry of Health and the Police to “develop working practices so that people who need a mental health assessment do not end up detained in Police cells for that purpose.”
The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) which is a member of the National Preventative Mechanism, again found that the number of people in Police detention that suffer from mental impairment, including alcohol and drug dependency is alarming, putting considerable pressure on staff. Mental health related calls for assistance to the Police has increased 350 percent over the last 20 years and incidents involving threatened or attempted suicide attempts by 800 percent.
“Recognising and implementing an alternative way of dealing with these people is already delivering results, and that is good for everyone,” Mr Rutherford said.