Mental health workers could work with police to reduce numbers detained in police stations (From Andover Advertiser)
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Mental health workers could work with police to reduce numbers detained in police stations
MENTAL health workers could soon work with police officers in a bid to reduce the number of mentally-ill people being detained at police stations.
That is the wish of Simon Hayes, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire, who believes that police stations are not the best place for people suffering mental health episodes, and that they take up valuable police time.
He said that for the past nine months, trials have been taking place on the Isle of Wight where healthcare professionals work with police officers in assessing people who might otherwise be detained using a temporary police power called section 136, despite no crime being committed.
Mr Hayes said evidence from that trial is being studied, and discussions would have to take place with Southern Health NHS Trust about funding before the scheme could be brought to Hampshire.
But he said: “If we can do it on the Isle of Wight, and we have a method that works, I am very keen that we bring it to the mainland.
“Police officers are not trained medical health practitioners and the concern is that we are seeing more of these cases, particularly out of hours.”
Mr Hayes spoke to The Gazette after appearing in a BBC Panorama programme called Locked up for being ill?, which was broadcast on September 9. A team from the current affairs programme spent a week at the custody centre in Southamp-ton, seeing how police cope with mentally-ill people who have been detained, sometimes when mental health services are unable to take them.
In the programme, Mr Hayes said his office’s research and anecdotal evidence indicates that around 45 per cent of people detained in custody by Hampshire Constabulary have some kind of mental illness.
The programme found that during 2011-2012, 9,000 people across England were detained in police custody using the section 136 power.
Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, said emergency departments in hospitals would be better place for mentally-ill people when mental health units are unable to take them.
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