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Support service for those in mental health crisis backed by the PCC celebrates outstanding success in its first year

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway, Bedfordshire Police and local mental health services are celebrating the outstanding first year success of the county's Mental Health Hub (MHH), which brought together mental health professionals and police to help those in mental health crisis across the county.

The innovative service is jointly funded by the Commissioner, the police and East London Foundation Trust (ELFT).

Specially designed, with input from mental health professionals and service users, the MHH has three distinct parts:

- Placing a mental health nurse within Bedfordshire Police’s Force Contact Centre (FCC - the control room) to deal directly with callers in crisis, providing support and tactical advice to police officers, as well as coaching and guidance for all call handlers in the management of mental health related calls

- Installing  a mental health nurse in the PCC’s Signpost victim support service to deal directly with callers with mental health issues and offer support and guidance to colleagues dealing with those affected by crime who are in crisis

- Creating the Serenity Integrated Mentoring (SIM) programme, providing named officers and mental health workers for each of the most high intensity users of all the emergency services in the county; often as a result of high risk mental health related issues that may result in a service user being sectioned.

These work in partnership with a dedicated police investigator and the existing Mental Health Street Triage Team.

In its first year, with dedicated nurse support, the FCC handled almost 1,500 calls that involved an element of mental health crisis and with the further support of the PCC’s Signpost service, were able to prevent 180 detentions under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.

In total, 443 police deployments were also avoided with the intervention of the dedicated FCC mental health nurse and the nurse in the Signpost victim support call centre (on freephone 0800 0282 887).

FCC mental health nurses provided nearly 100 training sessions to call handlers, Signpost staff and police colleagues, to promote increased understanding of mental health.

The SIM programme has supported five high intensity service users to not only improve their mental health but reduce their contact with, and high use of, emergency services - saving an estimated £20,000 per user per month across each of the county’s blue light services.

In addition, the deployment of the dedicated Police Investigator, has meant recording of offences that involve a degree of mental health issue, has increased by 45 per cent and seen 47 positive outcomes so far. Re-offending during this time has dropped to just two cases.

The Mental Health Street Triage Team successfully avoided the need for A&E attendance or detention in hospital under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act on an incredible 1,557 occasions.

Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, said: “Most people think a police officer’s time is spent exclusively dealing with crime, however, around 80 per cent is now spent dealing with other incidents, very often involving mental health situations which can be incredibly complex and may involve people experiencing such despair they wish to end their lives, or cause harm to others.

“One in four people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England and we should never underestimate the impact that has upon demand for the emergency services, who are at the very forefront of protecting and supporting the vulnerable.

“My commitment, one year ago, was to provide an initiative to bring together professional, dedicated individuals who would never turn their backs on someone in crisis, while providing support for colleagues and finding alternate ways, where possible, to divert people from the criminal justice system, which has resulted in a considerable cost saving to the county. The evidence proves conclusively that the first year of the service has been a resounding success,” said Commissioner Holloway.

Chief Inspector Mo Aziz, Bedfordshire Police's lead for mental health, said: “We now have a tried and tested model of a truly integrated response, with proven results in early detection, prevention of mental health crisis, reduction in use of police time when dealing with mental health related incidents and improving the overall experience for service users.

“The increase in recording of crime data involving mental health events will also allow us to build a more accurate picture of the issue in our county as we take this fantastic initiative forward into year two.”

An Institute for Government Performance Tracker 2019 survey found the number of mental health incidents involving police officers rose from 385,206 to 494,159 between 2014-18 and there was also a 13 per cent increase in the number of individuals taken to a place of safety by officers under the Mental Health Act.