Emergency response units consisting of a police officer, paramedic and mental health clinician will work around the clock in Canberra to respond to mental health incidents under an ACT government plan.
The police, ambulance and clinician early response initiative follows a visit by Mental Health Minister Shane Rattenbury to the UK, where he observed a similar scheme in action.
The territory government has allocated $323,000 through the budget to plan an ACT version of the initiative in 2019-20, with a view to having it up and running the following financial year.
Mr Rattenbury told the Sunday Canberra Times once the scheme began in the capital, the new teams would attend incidents that had been identified as likely involving mental health issues.
He said they would be able to travel under lights and sirens if necessary.
"You've got a model where police provide the physical security, the paramedics often have to deal with physical injuries that arise from a self-harm incident or a psychotic episode, and the mental clinician is obviously the lead in responding to the underlying issue, which is the mental health issue," Mr Rattenbury said.
"The way they use it in the UK means it very much avoids situations where people end up in a police cell because they've committed a violent act or something while they're having a psychotic episode, or [stops patients] being taken to the emergency department because no one knows where else to take them.
"Often, it can lead to a situation where someone is able to stay at home with the right treatments being built into the visits being made [to the patient]. That's a better outcome for the person.
"It has a mental health response as a starting point rather than just a justice response as a starting point."
Mr Rattenbury said the new initiative had only been allocated $323,000 for planning at this stage.
This was because it was not yet clear whether the government would need to employ extra staff, or whether existing police officers, paramedics and mental health clinicians could be reassigned to the scheme.
"The plan is to have it as a 24-hour operation," Mr Rattenbury said.
"What we don't know is whether we're going to resource it with existing staff or whether we're going to need more money, and that's what the planning phase needs to identify.
"We can imagine a scenario where, because it takes pressure off other parts of the system, we may not need additional staff."
A similar scheme operating in Birmingham and Solihull, in the UK, began in January 2014 has been lauded for its positive impacts.
In its first year of operation, the street triage team attended 1871 incidents to conduct assessments.
The number of people detained by police under section 136 of the UK's Mental Health Act more than halved in the area covered by the scheme and 647 fewer mental health patients were taken to hospital emergency departments.
But questions were also raised about the service's effectiveness after it was analysed in 2018 by Emma Tilley, from the University of Portsmouth's Institute of Criminal Justice Studies.
Ms Tilley's study found more than two-thirds of patients who had contact with the scheme were already known to mental health services.
"This has raised important questions about the repeat nature of patients who are the subject of demand across multiple services," she wrote.
Ms Tilley found there was a lack of research conducted with a focus on outcome management for patients after their contact with the triage service.
"In the absence of follow-up contact with patients, it cannot be confidently concluded that the initiative is working in the best interests of the service user."