EXPERTS TO HELP POLICE CRISIS CARE
MENTAL health experts will be drafted into North Wales Police’s control room to help identify people in crisis and in need of specialist help.
A triage team will be on hand to help officers for up to 16 hours a day to help them make decisions on how to respond to people suffering from a mental health crisis.
News of the move comes after a report highlighted that forces across the UK were having to deal with mental health-related issues but that officers did not always have the skills or expertise.
And the report, by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), found that only 0.4% of incidents recorded by North Wales Police were flagged or marked to identify mental health concerns in the 12 months to June 30, 2017.
The figure was the lowest from all police forces who provided data to HMICFRS.
But the ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ report makes clear that its inspectors are concerned that police are filling the gaps left by other ‘broken’ services.
It said: “We have grave concerns about whether the police should be involved in responding to mental health problems to the degree they are. Our inspection found that, in dealing with people with mental health problems, police officers and staff must do complex and high-risk work. They often don’t have the skills they need to support people with mental health problems. All this can take a heavy emotional toll.”
The report gave a number of recommendations, including forces assessing how much demand mental health is putting on them, and reviewing the training given to staff.
North Wales Police is in the process of bringing in training so officers can understand what action to take, according to the HMICFRS report.
Superintendent Gareth Evans said: “We recognise the findings today that people suffering a mental health crisis need to be cared for by mental health experts in a health care setting, not the police, and this is also recognised by our partners across North Wales.
“This approach has developed multi-agency meetings across North Wales where individuals living in the community and seeking help, or who are starting to show symptoms of a crisis, can be helped much earlier.
“We have also greatly improved our communication with mental health services prior to any arrest under the Mental Health Act and improved the handover process to our colleagues in the health board so that people are better cared for.”
North Wales Police and the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) have secured Welsh Government funding to embed a mental health triage unit in the force control room to provide expert advice to officers 16 hours per day. The Welsh Ambulance Service already work in the control room and help coordinate the response to individuals requiring emergency intervention.
There will also be a training package for frontline officers and a plan to establish crisis resource centres where people in crisis can seek help and reassurance.
“This approach, focussing on prevention, crisis care and education should see significant improvements to the situation described by the HMICFRS today and I would like to acknowledge the work of all partners so far,” said Supt Evans.
Police will get help in dealing with people with mental health issues