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New partnership to improve mental health and substance misuse services in Avon and Somerset

Custody door
Identifying mental health, learning disabilities, substance misuse and other vulnerabilities is at the heart of a new service set up to support people through the early stages of the criminal justice pathway and to help break the cycle of crime for those who need help.

Advice, Support, Custody and Courts (ASCC) service, jointly commissioned by NHS England and Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens, aims to divert people aware from the criminal justice system into a more appropriate setting.

By undertaking holistic screenings of an individual, the service works to recognise possible signs of vulnerability at the first point of contact, conduct an assessment of the severity of the vulnerability and establish appropriate support, before a referral for help is made if required. The service will also provide a range of brief interventions to help individuals, which may prevent a referral into specialist services being required.

PCC Sue Mountstevens said: “Vulnerable people need help.  What they do not need is to be part of a continual cycle of crime and punishment, that doesn’t address the root cause of their offending.  If we don’t look to better understand offending behaviours, we cannot improve society by keeping people out of prison and the criminal justice system.

“Over 85% of police work is non-crime and the police spend an inordinate amount of time supporting people experiencing mental health crisis or those who have substance misuse problems.  The new service will not only help offenders affected by these vulnerabilities to improve their situation, but should also have a positive impact on demand on police time.

“I remain passionate that people who are vulnerable need specialist care from professionals who can offer tailored help and advice.  Understanding and supporting those who may be suffering from mental ill health or substance misuses problems is vital and something I take very seriously, but it’s only by working together can we continue to change this outlook.”

The police, probation and the judiciary make decisions based on the evidence and information presented to them.  The ASCC service will share health needs with relevant agencies as appropriate so they can make informed decision about case management, sentencing and disposal options.

Clinical Director for Specialised Services at Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP), Dr Tim Williams, said: “Occasionally, mental health problems can contribute to someone being taken into custody or presenting to court. It is important that anyone in this situation is given the correct support and assistance not only through the criminal justice system, but also to identify and address any underlying conditions contributing to their offending. We welcome the new Advice, Support, Custody and Courts (ASCC) service as it will enable anyone who is taken into custody who displays signs of a mental disorder to get the correct help and support for their condition.”

The new service, provided by Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust in partnership with Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, went live on the 1st July 2018 and brings together the existing Liaison and Diversion Service (LADS) and Arrest Intervention Referral (AIRS) Service into one integrated team.

Posted on Thursday 23rd August 2018
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