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Big steps made in mental health and partnership working continues

News   •   Nov 29, 2018 11:35 GMT

Sussex Police has been leading the change in supporting how those in a mental health crisis are treated.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services issued a national report on how the police force respond to people with mental health problems.

Sussex Police are specifically mentioned within the report as good at identifying calls involving mental health during the call handling process and the work on street triage. Street triage is where mental health nurses and response officers respond to those in need together.

Sarah Gates, OBE, the force's mental health liaison officer, said the report was a fair report which reflects the demand on the police, not just in Sussex, but also nationally.

She said: "For 11 months, since December 2017, no-one in crisis has been taken to custody in Sussex and a more suitable place has been found for them to be cared for. The force has worked hard with the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to help find a place of safety for those in crisis.

"We have had street triage now for five years in East and West Sussex, which has been extremely successful, and next week we start it in Brighton and Hove.

"Following a successful six month pilot in 2016, we are working towards having a permanent mental health nurse in our force contact, command and control department. This was successful in terms of having some on hand advice for controllers and people in crisis who could assess whether officers needed to be sent to the caller.

"The report makes recommendations for all forces on training, re-evaluating street triage and how we gather data. We welcome all these recommendations continue to work on these with all partner agencies and within our force to look at the best way we can continue moving forward to support those with mental health issues."

As well as supporting members of the public, the force also has made strives to support its own officers. This week Sergeant Garry Botterill was a finalist in the BBC Sussex Community Heroes awards for his work on the Backup Buddy app, which supports officers and staff with the impact of their own mental health at work.

Chief Constable Giles York said: "Mental health will always be part of policing and there will be cases where we absolutely should be involved as we will be the most appropriate agency.

"We continue to work with all our partners to keep in constant dialogue about ways we can work together which works for everyone, especially those in crisis. I believe we have made great progress, in partnership, over recent years to improve the care for people facing a mental health crisis. However I strongly agree with the heart of this report where there is still too much onus on policing to be the first response to a health crisis, especially outside routine working hours."

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne added: "To be specifically commended as a force that is both equipped to identify people with mental health problems at first contact and one that offers an effective street triage service is a real achievement and I commend Sussex Police for their efforts.”