New service offers ‘invaluable’ skills

More than eight years after the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust piloted one of the first street triage services in the country, it is now working with Durham Constabulary to provide “invaluable” skills and experience to help officers dealing with people suffering mental health problems.

Nov 8, 2017

More than eight years after the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust piloted one of the first street triage services in the country, it is now working with Durham Constabulary to provide “invaluable” skills and experience to help officers dealing with people suffering mental health problems. As part of the new street triage service, mental health practitioners will work alongside police officers to offer advice and guidance, and where necessary attend incidents to assess the mental health of people who have come into contact with police officers. The programme is designed to equip officers with wider knowledge and a better understanding of issues affecting those with mental health issues. It will also make sure that people receive timely and appropriate support and allow officer time to be freed-up to attend other incidents. Durham Constabulary Chief Constable Mike Barton said: “Having the ability to call on the skills and experience of mental health practitioners is invaluable. When someone is suffering from mental health problems sending a police officer is not always appropriate. “The street triage staff will be able to quickly assess people and determine the best course of action for them and in some cases this could prevent an incident escalating.” The Trust’s first pilot in Teesside in 2009 “had a significant impact” and paved the way for other similar services across the UK. In neighbouring Cleveland, it established a street triage scheme in 2012 and over the past five years it has led to a 97 per cent reduction in people going into police custody to await a mental health assessment – from 321 in 2011/12 to nine in 2016/17 – and a 57 per cent drop in the use of section 136 of the Mental Health Act. Fran Bergin, Tees Esk and Wear Valleys adult mental health locality manager, said: “Increasingly police officers can be called to incidents where people with mental ill-health might be in distress. Officers don’t have the knowledge or experience that health professionals might have in order to deal with such situations. “By working alongside officers we can give advice, guidance and reassurance and make sure that the person experiencing mental health problems receives the most appropriate support and treatment as soon as possible.” The new service will provide telephone support to patients and police officers/staff, as well as general mental health and Mental Health Act information for police officers to help inform them whilst they carry out their duties. The street triage team will also, where necessary, attend police call-outs to provide face-to-face assessments and sign posting for people who may require support when they come into contact with officers. Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust provides a range of mental health and learning disabilities services across County Durham, Teesside, North Yorkshire and the Vale of York. Ron Hogg, Durham police, crime and victims’ commissioner, said: “We have seen how well other street triage teams have worked and how they have reduced the numbers of people being detained inappropriately under the Mental Health Act. I have no doubt that our new partnership will have a similar positive impact, it will also help to free-up police officers to respond to other incidents, and provide a better outcome for the people who need help.” A team of three mental health staff will operate between 2pm and 12pm, seven days a week. One member of the team will work directly in the Cleveland Police control room and two will provide a mobile resource for community-based assessment with officers.

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