Mental illness arrests plummet after Eastbourne scheme

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Nearly 200 fewer people with mental illnesses were held in Sussex cells this year after police rolled out an Eastbourne street scheme.

The street triage scheme was introduced to the town in October 2013 in an attempt to reduce the number of people with mental health issues spending the night in custody.

The scheme works by teaming up officers with specialist mental health nurses, to offer support at the scenes of crisis.

Since the scheme was established the number of people with mental health issues spending the night in custody has dropped by nearly 200 while those sent to hospital has risen by 77.

Only 28 people with mental health issues were held in police custody between April and June 2015, compared to 224 in the same period the year before.

In the same period more than 236 people were instead taken to the safety of a specialised hospital, compared to 147 to hospital the previous year.

No under 18-year-olds with mental illness were held in police custody, compared to 11 the previous year.

As well as the street triage team, Chief Constable Giles York has banned officers from keeping people suffering from mental health episodes unless all possible preventative measures have been taken.

Mental health liaison officer Sarah Gates said “The Eastbourne pilot has seen reductions of those detained under Section 136 of around a third compared to previous years and, of those, the majority are being taken to hospital rather than police custody and they are being admitted to mental health care.

“It is anticipated that with the continued collaboration between Sussex Police and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, these numbers will continue to fall.”

Earlier this month Superintendent Di Roskilly who pushed for the scheme’s introduction in Eastbourne, was given a national award partly for her work on this project.

Other police forces across the country have introduced similar schemes as a result of the scheme’s success.

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