“Too many people are being criminalised when they are ill because the cell is the only place they can go.”

PCC moots plans for 24/7 mental health response teams to work in collaboration with officers.

Date – 15th April 2013

By – Jasmin McDermott – Police Oracle

Chief Constab mental healthA survey documenting every interaction an officer has with an individual suffering from mental health issues could support a Police and Crime Commissioner’s (PCC) ambitions to have 24/7 health and social service response teams to free up officer time.

Staffordshire PCC Matthew Ellis has commissioned a survey requiring every officer in the Force to record interactions they have with someone who has mental health issues to find out how much time they spend dealing with it and to discover why responsible agencies were not dealing with the issue themselves.

Anecdotal evidence from the eight week survey, which ends in six days, suggests that officers spend between 15 to 25 per cent of their time dealing with people with mental health issues.

Mr Ellis hopes the results of the survey will provide a focal point for discussions with mental health agencies to create round-the-clock response teams made up of various health services to work in collaboration with officers.

It is envisaged that the teams could work with staff in command and control centres to provide vital information about an individual’s health history to the call handler to help the responding officers’ deal with the person appropriately.

It would also mitigate incidences where people with mental health issues are placed in a custody cell because there is no other safe and secure place for them to go.

In an interview with PoliceOracle.com, Mr Ellis said many agencies have taken advantage of the fact that the Police Service is the first and last point of call and “always says yes”.

He said: “This makes the police responsible for things they should not be responsible for and it takes them away from what they should be doing. Instead they are filling in for other services.

“Having these teams will free up police time and will reduce the number of times that people who have mental health issues come into custody. It seems to me that too many people are being criminalised when they are ill because the cell is the only place they can go.”

The inspiration for the study followed a series of meetings Mr Ellis had with 496 sergeants and constables to discuss operational issues.

The most consistent issue, he said, was the fact that officers spent a lot of time dealing with mental health cases when other agencies were better placed to deal with them.

“This is very common across the country,” he added.

“This study and the creation of a team could be a blueprint for other forces and areas dealing with these issues.

“All services are challenged financially but instead of it always falling to the police we need to come up with a collaborative approach. We need to move away from a silo mentality that because one agency is dealing with it that is the end of the problem. This is a new way of thinking.”

As previously reported, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, Ch Supt Irene Curtis, called for an urgent review of legislation underpinning police powers relating to mental health.

She said expectations on officers dealing with mental health issues had reached unacceptable levels and that the increasing demands on officers created by gaps in other agencies’ provision needed to be addressed.

“The police play too great a role in what is, after all, a medical emergency,” she added.
PoliceOracle.com will be reporting on the results and the implications of the survey when they are released.

Credit: Police Oracle http://www.policeoracle.com/news/Mental-Health-Response-Teams-Needed-24-7_63452.html

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