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A new partnership approach in Avon and Somerset to improve support for mental health crisis

Sue on a bench

Today, Tuesday 16 February 2016, Avon and Somerset Constabulary and the Police and Crime Commissioner announced they will be working with Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP) and Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to reduce the use of police custody cells as a place of safety for people in mental health crisis.

From 1 June 2016 the Constabulary policy will be to limit cell use under the Mental Health Act to "exceptional circumstances" only, specifically where a person would present an unmanageable risk in a health setting. This new policy is one of the key recommendations within the Policing and Crime Bill that went before Parliament last week. It is expected to form part of a number of amendments to the Mental Health Act that could come in in April 2017.

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said; “I believe that police cells are not a place to detain someone suffering mental illness and I’m proud to say that the police and the mental health partnerships covering Avon and Somerset are all focused on improving care. There are a number of new joint initiatives underway to help support people suffering from mental health so that police cells are only used in exceptional circumstances.

“People who are mentally ill require specialist help in order to get better.  Unlike a mental health professional, police officers are not trained to provide the necessary level of support to someone with mental health problems.” 

 Between December 2014 and December 2015 the Constabulary detained 260 people in police cells under the Mental Health Act 1983, yet three quarters did not present an "unmanageable risk” in a health setting.

 Assistant Chief Constable Nikki Watson said; ‘It is important that people in mental health crisis receive the right care and support and at the right time.

We have already significantly improved the way we work with our partners to help people experiencing mental health crisis. The introduction of street triage in Bristol and wider collaborative initiatives across the Avon and Somerset area have reduced the number of people being detained under the Mental Health Act by our officers.”

 It is the aim of the Constabulary and its partners to ensure that vulnerable people are kept safe at a hospital in future.

Posted on Tuesday 16th February 2016
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