The Deputy will be aware that the Garda Commissioner is responsible under the law for the management and administration of An Garda Síochána, including the training and deployment of Garda personnel. As Minister, I have no direct role in such decisions. However, the area of mental health in the justice sector has been a priority for me since I was appointed Minister for Justice.
The establishment of crisis intervention units were recommended by the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland in their Report published in 2018. Crisis Intervention Teams are a priority project under A Policing Service for our Future, the Government's implementation plan for the Commission's recommendations. These will be specialist uniformed units who will work jointly with health professionals to provide a rapid and integrated 24/7 response to people with mental health issues.
Crisis Intervention Teams have become a globally recognised model within contemporary policing for safely and effectively assisting people who experience mental health crises or related problems within the community. The Crisis Intervention Team model promotes strong community partnerships among law enforcement, health professionals and appropriate follow-on support agencies.
I am informed by the Garda authorities that members of An Garda Síochána in the Limerick Division are leading on the implementation of a pilot project that examines, designs and resources a 24/7 multi-agency approach to responding to mental health related incidents. I am grateful to them for their leadership on this important project.
The Assistant Commissioner with responsibility for Roads Policing & Community Engagement is sponsoring this important project within An Garda Síochána, while local Garda management in Limerick are engaged in the design, planning and eventual rollout of the project. The Limerick Crisis Intervention Team Project is currently in the consultation phase and is scheduled for implementation in Q3/Q4 2022.
The intention is that the pilot project will involve a co-located response unit comprising of a Community Psychiatric Nurse working alongside frontline members of An Garda Síochána to respond to calls from anyone in crisis.
The project team have engaged with an academic research partner from the University of Limerick who will assist in evaluating the project over a 2-3 year period. They will also assist the team with policy terminology and language in respect of vulnerability and eligibility criteria. A training programme is also currently being drafted.
The learning from the pilot initiative in Limerick will be of enormous value in shaping a model for Crisis Intervention Teams to be rolled out across the country and ensure that all people with mental health needs receive the support they deserve, and are diverted from the criminal justice system whenever possible.