Health and criminal justice partners in Nottinghamshire are bidding for a slice of £15m from the government to prevent people in mental health crisis being held in police cells, it has been announced.
Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping is backing the bid, which will be spent on creating safe, health-based facilities for vulnerable people who require mental health support if successful.
It comes as the country marks Mental Health Awareness Week – an annual publicity campaign running between May 16 and 22 aimed at educating and increasing awareness about mental illness.
The Department of Health has announced £15m of funding for 24 priority areas, including Nottinghamshire, for the provision of health and community-based places of safety to protect vulnerable people suffering mental health issues. The aim is to increase capacity in appropriate care-based settings rather than detain people with complex mental health problems in a police cell which puts them at risk.
Commissioner Tipping, who is chair of Nottinghamshire’s Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat Partnership Board, a body set up following a multi-agency agreement to improve the response to people in the grip of mental health crisis in the county, said he was very hopeful of securing funding to provide a boost to the service improvements the team had already delivered.
“Mental health is a priority for all of us and it’s vital we do what we can to expand our overstretched facilities to ensure fewer people face the indignity of being locked up in a police cell,” he said.
“While there has been a marked change in the way we think about and prioritise mental health issues, largely led by the signing of the Crisis Care Concordat, there is nevertheless a need to deliver practical changes to support this holistic approach and that means investing money into projects so we can better meet demand.
“Capacity is an urgent issue and this funding will go some way to ensuring we reduce pressure for acute beds by providing suitable community-based services.
“These vulnerable people need care not custody. They haven’t committed a crime and we have a moral obligation to provide them with the best means of advice and support available - that is not in a police cell.”
The bid is being put together by the Partnership on behalf of the agencies signed up to the Concordat including Nottinghamshire Police, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS), the Local Authority and health commissioners.
It includes proposals for structural improvements to the current health-based places of safety (HBPOS) to ensure they are robust and remain operational throughout the year as well as the addition of a new crisis facility next to the current Highbury HBPOS. The agencies are also applying for funding for improved vehicles for crisis response including the option of an East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) Triage and for existing Street Triage Teams. These vehicles will have a private area in the rear set out to provide a more therapeutic environment.
In Nottinghamshire, 52 statutory and non-statutory organisations signed up to the Crisis Care Concordat which led to the development of an action plan. Among a series of commitments is a pledge to deliver improved identification and access to early intervention and to reduce stigmatisation and discrimination. The plan is regularly reviewed by a Concordat task and finish group.
The funding is available for refurbishment or improvement of existing health-based places of safety, building new places of safety, making current facilities more suitable for people aged 18 or under, and/or the creation of mental health ‘crisis cafes’ or places of calm where people can access support.
It can also be used to provide ambulance transport to suitable safety facilities or to provide vehicles for mobile response services to mental health crises in the community so a police car is not used.
In announcing the funding, the Department of Health said progress had already been made to decrease the use of police cells nationally – there was a 32% reduction between April 2013 and March 2015. However, use of police cells still varies considerably across the country.
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Posted on Friday 20th May 2016