People experiencing a mental health crisis are being kept out of police custody more than ever before thanks to a partnership involving Northumbria Police and health experts.
The Force’s Street Triage team has seen the number of detentions under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act drop from an average of 71 a month before its formation in 2013 to 13 for 2018 to date.
In partnership with Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW), the initiative sees a team of dedicated officers and mental health nurses work alongside each other.
The team responds to individuals who have come into contact with the police, ensuring they receive mental health support and an assessment of their needs at an early stage. The team also advise and guide frontline officers on the best course of action for the individual.
By working collaboratively, police and health experts have managed to significantly reduce the amount of preventable and potentially harmful detentions when using Section 136, with a strong focus on providing the highest quality of care with the ability to signpost those in crisis to the most appropriate agency.
This collaboration also extends to having mental health nurses working in all custody suites as well as dedicated officers working within the main hospital sites to provide support and advice for colleagues, patients and staff alike.
Last month (April), the team dealt with more than 640 incidents – the highest since its formation.
As officers across the Force mark Mental Health Awareness Week, Chief Constable Winton Keenen paid tribute to the service.
“Street Triage is there to provide the highest possible care and treatment for people experiencing mental health problems through effective face-to-face intervention,” said Chief Constable Keenen.
“By working closely with our colleagues at NTW, we are able to offer the best advice and guidance to people who we find are often at their lowest points.
“We are immensely proud of the great strides made in ensuring those who are vulnerable in the communities we serve are supported and treated fairly and proportionately, regardless of the nature of the incident – and we are committed to ensuring this will continue.”
The scheme has also reduced the demand on front-line resources.
Two teams are on duty every day covering the entire Force area between the hours of 10am – 3am with additional support from the Crisis Team out with of these hours.
Dame Vera Baird QC, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, said: “I continue to be fully committed to ensuring Northumbria Police work closely with our partners to make sure residents in our area successfully receive the support they need, when they need it – not just this week but every week.
“It is important that we encourage people to speak out and raise awareness of mental health issues and the impact on peoples’ lives.
“Northumbria Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria will continue to take a pro-active stance in raising awareness and supporting vulnerable people in crisis.”
Gary O’Hare, Director of Nursing and Chief Operating Officer at NTW, added: “We have already seen how beneficial working closely with colleagues at Northumbria Police is for our users, carers and staff.
“Our joint Street Triage team is one excellent example of this. The work they have undertaken in improving the pathways of care for those in crisis who are in contact with the police has seen much-improved access and support.
“I know it has been said we have one of the best examples of a partnership between police and an NHS mental health trust, and I am proud of what we have achieved over the years together.
“This has also included expanding criminal justice liaison teams in custody and courts, as well as neighbourhood officers based on and working closely with our hospital sites.
“We are also the only trust in the country to have a dedicated nurse working as a clinical police liaison lead, and have integrated multi-agency response training with other partners.
“All of this means we not only work together, but also learn together, support each other and ensure that people receive the best care and treatment – no matter where they are or the service they turn to.”