Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill has today blogged:
We need to make sure that the vulnerable receive the right care, at the right time, in the right place. They need to be looked after by a health care professional, not by a police officer and not in a police cell.
As we mark World Mental Health Day, it is important to remember that the police are often the first point of contact for a person in crisis. Many are taken to a police station as a ‘place of safety’ but often don’t receive the appropriate health care and support. In Dorset, through better training and greater awareness, the police have improved their identification of those in mental health related crises and the mental health street triage pilot is working well.
Earlier this week, our office attended a talk at Bournemouth University from Dorset Police and Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust about the mental health street triage project. We are doing so much more to help officers identify people who need support from health practitioners when they attend incidents.
The police have a critical role in helping those in mental health crisis but they should not be relied upon. Their role should be to identify the vulnerable and flag up issues to agencies but this only works if health services are available 24 hours a day. We need to foster closer relationships with health agencies not just in Dorset, but across the country and ensure that the vulnerable receive the most appropriate care.