An innovative pilot project in Eastbourne which sees mental health nurses joining police on the beat has been extended to more areas in the county this week.
The scheme, known as street triage, is when the police and mental health services join forces to provide immediate help and support to people who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.
In the past if the police received a call about a person with a mental health problem they may have had to detain that person under the mental health act in order to get them the help they need. However, with the right support from a mental health professional there may be no need for them to be admitted to hospital or detained.
Following an award winning Eastbourne pilot, funding has been secured by Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Horsham and Mid Sussex CCG and Crawley CCG to roll the project out in their areas for two months. During this initial period the benefits to patients, health partners and Sussex Police will be assessed.
The project in Eastbourne is being extended for a further year by Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford CCG. Hastings and Rother CCG will be funding a year-long scheme in Hastings.
The Eastbourne project has meant 181 people did not need to be detained under a section 136 order. This is when police take someone to a place of safety, sometimes a police cell. Instead these people have been helped by mental health teams at the scene or referred on to the most appropriate mental health service for them. In addition 447 people, in mental health distress received immediate mental health care who previously may have been seen just by the police.
Christine Lockwood, Sussex Partnership’s Interim General Manager for East Sussex, said, “The aim of this project is to improve people’s experiences and help them get the right care, at the right time and in the best place.
“The model is already showing positive results. Feedback from the Eastbourne scheme shows a significant reduction in the number of people with mental health problems being detained.”
Senior Mental Health Commissioner for Crawley, Horsham and Mid Sussex, Coastal West Sussex CCGs, Tom Insley said, “The mental health nurse can assess the person and refer on to appropriate mental health services.
“The nurse can help officers decide on the best option for individuals in crisis, by offering professional advice on the spot, accessing health information systems, helping to liaise with other care services and identifying the right kind of support for the individual.
“This will not only benefit the person concerned and avoid a trip to A&E, but also aims to reduce the need for police to detain someone using Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.”
Chief Inspector Chris Ball said, “My officers are looking forward to the challenges of street triage and I have every reason to believe that the outstanding success of street triage in Eastbourne will be replicated in West Sussex.”
Police Mental Health Liaison Officer Sarah Gates said: “Sussex Police is delighted to be given the opportunity to extend street triage to the people of West Sussex. We will continue to work with our partners in Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to deliver an excellent service to people in crisis.”
Katy Bourne, Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, said; “Police cells are not the place for someone in mental health crisis. That is why I am pleased to see this effective pilot project being extended. It is vital that the right arrangements are in place across the county to respond in these situations.”