Key messages

  • Hospital emergency departments use a dedicated assessment and treatment response for people with a mental illness.
  • Specialist mental health services provide a senior mental health clinician to emergency departments for consultation and advice.
  • The initial response may lead to an admission to an inpatient unit, referral to a community mental health service, or to another service.

Major Victorian metropolitan and regional hospitals use a dedicated assessment and treatment response for people with a mental illness who present to the emergency department.

When developing Acute Community Intervention Service (ACIS) pathways and processes, specialist mental health services provide a senior mental health clinician to emergency departments for consultation and advice.

People of all ages and backgrounds can access a mental health clinician, assessment and appropriate short-term care in a major emergency department at any time of the day or night.

While treatment and care in a community setting is a priority, at times (such as when there are safety concerns) people with a broad range of possible mental illnesses are referred to an emergency department by telephone triage.

They might also present independently or by other means, for example by ambulance or with police.

Depending on the severity, acuity and risks observed in the person’s presentation, the ACIS response may lead to an admission to an inpatient unit, referral to a community mental health service, or to another service.

Mental health services in emergency departments provide assessment and appropriate interventions for all age groups, drawing on age-relevant expertise as required.

People who are referred but not admitted are linked to appropriate follow-up care and, if necessary, short-term management until appropriate follow-up can be organised.

If a child or young person who is in out-of-home care presents at an emergency department, the department will activate a priority access service response.

Specialist mental health clinicians working in emergency department settings also provide ongoing education and training for emergency department staff in identifying, assessing and managing people who are suicidal or are experiencing a mental illness.