As Mental Health Awareness Week (12-18 May) gets underway, Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping has spoken of “excellent results” already emerging from the Street Triage Scheme started in Nottinghamshire just over a month ago.
Mr Tipping supported the introduction of two triage cars – one in the city and one in the county – on 4 April and believes they are “a step in the right direction.” Mental health nurses accompany police officers in the triage cars to incidents where it is believed someone may need immediate mental health support.
The Commissioner is determined that changes are made to ensure that people with mental health issues are not criminalised or locked up unnecessarily, but receive appropriate care.
“People who are ill and vulnerable need medical support in a medical environment from the word go, not placed in police custody cells until appropriate support can be provided,” he said.
Jointly funded by Nottinghamshire Police and local clinical commissioning groups, and supported by a Notts-wide partnership of NHS organisations, police and local authorities, the triage car scheme is reducing the number of patients detained in police cells. It is increasing access to support and treatment services at the earliest opportunity and providing expert advice for operational police officers.
Early findings from work being undertaken at a Mansfield custody suite – partly funded by the Commissioner – show that 20% of offenders need either a mental health assessment or require a dual diagnosis assessment with either alcohol or drugs. “A staggering 59% of those needing a mental health assessment had no current services in place,” Mr Tipping said.
The Commissioner also pointed to the time and cost spent by the police service on being called out to help people with mental health problems. “Monitoring the well-being of mentally ill people while they are in custody takes an enormous amount of police resources which are then diverted from tackling crime,” he explained.
In 2013 there were 249 calls for service for one person with a personality disorder, with 173 attendances costing the police more than £16,000. “And yet this person is neither an offender nor a victim of crime,” Mr Tipping said.
“Situations like this demonstrate the urgent need for change that will result in the right care for patients and sustainable savings across the board.”
Chief Inspector Kim Molloy, Force-lead for tackling mental health issues, said: “Nottinghamshire Police is determined to work with our partners in health to provide the best possible service for people with mental health issues. This is to ensure we reach people at the earliest opportunity in a bid to keep distress to a minimum and allow for the provision of a more cohesive and efficient service.
"The triage cars are only the first step. We have a list of other initiatives to implement over the coming months. One of which is to look at our own workforce. Law enforcement can be a very stressful, and we need to make sure we are sufficiently supporting the welfare needs of our staff and officers, as well as fulfilling their training requirements, to ensure they can deliver the best service to the public.”
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Posted on Monday 12th May 2014