Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Barry Coppinger has echoed the comments of Home Secretary Theresa May, which praise the work of the Cleveland Street Triage Service to protect those suffering with mental health issues.
The Home Secretary highlighted the service on Teesside as ‘best work on the ground’ at the national Police Federation Conference on 15th May and has pledged the roll out of the scheme as pilots in other areas.
Street Triage began in June last year as a partnership between Cleveland Police and Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, with nurses working on the ground daily between 4pm and midnight. When police are called to an address or incident and believe that an individual involved has a mental illness, learning disability or substance misuse issues, they will contact this team of nurses to attend and carry out an assessment.
The team will identify whether the person needs to be detained for their own safety or referred to other services for care and treatment. This triage method helps to reduce the number of people detained under the Mental Health Act who are not mentally ill and identifying those who do need to be detained but may have otherwise not been.
Police on the frontline are regularly called to deal with people who have challenging mental health issues, regardless of whether it is a police matter. These officers don’t have formal health qualifications and aren’t in a position to diagnose if someone needs the intervention of mental health services.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary estimates that two per cent of police time is spent dealing with people with mental health problems, but other commissioned surveys put the estimate somewhere between 15 to 25 percent. As one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any one year, schemes like Street Triage ensure vulnerable people can get immediate access to the treatment they need. will experience a mental health problem in any one year, schemes like Street Triage ensure vulnerable people can get immediate access to the treatment they need.
PCC Barry Coppinger said: “It’s pleasing that the Home Secretary has recognised the great work of frontline officers and partners in Cleveland on such a national scale.
“We have made positive strides forward but there is still work to be done to reduce pressures both nationally and locally on this issue. Officers provide the best possible service on the ground, but they are not medical experts. When they come into contact with people who have mental health issues, they would take them to a police cell as a place of safety to wait for assessments from health professionals.
“This not only ties up valuable officer time, but means that vulnerable people are being dealt with by the police in the first instance rather than health and social care services. There is also an increased bill to the taxpayer.
“The Street Triage Service goes towards reducing this bill and ensuring that officers are freed to deal with the issues that they should be and that vulnerable people are being signposted to the support that they need more quickly.”
Dr Ranjit Kini, Associate Clinical Director for Offender Health at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust said: “By carrying out an immediate mental health or learning disability assessment, people can quickly be referred to the most appropriate treatment, avoiding any unnecessary detentions in hospital or custody and reducing the amount of associated distress for the individual.
“Nurses from the street triage team also provide mental health awareness training to Cleveland Police officers, to further equip them with a wider knowledge and understanding of the issues surrounding and affecting those with mental ill health”.
Posted on Tuesday 28th May 2013