Call for ministry to hire a psychologist

Monday March 20, 2017 Written by Published in Local

One of the key recommendations of the Shootings Inquiry is for a full-time clinical psychologist to be employed by the Health ministry.


The main role of the mental health expert would be to provide assistance to prisoners and emergency workers.

The inquiry recommended that urgent consideration be given to starting a programme to review those prisoners who have not had the opportunity to be psychologically assessed.

“By extending the programme, it may identify issues of concern for security and the safety of the prisoners and future risks to prison staff and the community on prisoner release.”

And it added: “Strong consideration should be given to ensure psychological assessment is completed prior to any applications for participation in the (prison) work gang is given approval.”

A mental health assessment of killer Chris Rimamotu for a pre-sentence report in 2015 described him as a person with post-traumatic stress disorder. However, the inquiry stated, “no evidence was disclosed to indicate that he would be involved in such a tragic event at that time”.

The report said substance dependence was a contributing factor to Rimamotu’s previous offending and clearly he was a person who suffered low esteem due to his abusive childhood, and he had an inability to trust himself or others.

Rimamotu was seen by a New Zealand visiting psychiatrist on 16 July 2016 at the Arorangi Prison and no mental illnesses were identified and further, he was provided with no treatment.

McDermott said: “The health assessment of Rimamotu by the psychiatrist six months before found no evidence of illness.

“We have since, in our process, found evidence of illness and also on lot of advice from Prison services and from the prison Superintendent.

“He made comments about the illness of Rimamotu and talked at length about post-traumatic stress.

“It is a disorder that many not familiar with but certainly within the ranks of emergency services and wardens it has to be considered in the future.

“It is a health phenomenon that can cause untold health problems for people.”

The inquiry called for the Health and Justice ministries to develop a model of counselling for all wardens attached to the Arorangi Prison to ensure their psychological well-being is being considered.

And: “It is recommended discussions occur between the Ministry of Health and the Commissioner of Police, to seek cost neutral arrangements for the clinical psychologist to develop a programme for counselling/debriefing for police officers and medical/emergency workers involved in dangerous and traumatic events which they are required to respond to in the line of duty.”

In addition: “Immediate consideration be given to modifying the existing emergency response police to incorporate contact with the police command centre with regards to call-outs by the Ambulance Service, either by telephone – but preferably via VHF radio.” 

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