Many of you will know that I had a lot of interaction with my local police force: Northumbria Police, during the years between my first overdose (June 2009) and my admission to the Bradford Hospital (July 2012). It was always mental health based in the form of the police's 136 sectioning powers, me being reported AWOL from hospitals, or professionals etc being worried for my safety. This meant that I had a varied response.
Readers of recent posts, and my Twitter followers (@aimes_wilson), will know that I'm doing a lot of collaborations and partnerships with many different organisations, projects and individuals this year in the hope that it'll broaden my content, benefit others, and develop my own skills etc in this area (mental health/social media).
So when the opportunity to work with NTW, my area's Mental Health NHS Trust (Northumberland Tyne and Wear Foundation NHS Trust) and Northumbria Police arose, I jumped at the chance! For me, working alongside the two most central organisations to my recovery, is a big deal. I'd like to think that my input will help others avoid repeating my negative experiences.
On the 12th, I met with Claire Andre, the Clinical Police Liason Lead (and a Mental Health Nurse) for NTW and the Mental Health Lead Inspector Steve Baker from the police. It was mostly for them to tell me about their upcoming projects.
Steve told me about the improvements that they'd already made regarding police and mental health; as I've said in earlier posts, whilst I was in the Bradford Hospital there was a lot of work put into improving services. The Inspector talked about some of the factors nationally that helped to illustrate the need for such changes - that 1 in 4 people will experience poor mental health in their lifetime, and the highlighted issue of those who are sectioned under Section 136 (the police's Mental Health Act powers) who were being detained in cells.
Some of the changes that have occurred in Northumbria/NTW have included officers being encouraged to speak out about their own mental health, more intense and detailed training in mental health for new recruits, and the creation of the Street Triage system. This is a new scheme with a qualified mental health nurse working alongside a Police Officer to attend mental health related callouts or give advice to officers who do. Personally, I think this is a genius concept as it'll help to minimise so many difficult situations where the Police have to err on the side of caution when detaining someone as they aren't experts and have a duty of care. Often, this means officers will be sat with an individual for hours before mental health professionals carry out a Mental Health Act assessment and potentially decide that the individual does not need to be hospitalised.
Under the Mental Health Act assessment, when the police detain someone with their powers, they must take the individual to a 'place of safety.' Historically (and in some areas this still occurs frequently) this means that the individual may have been taken to the custody cells of a police station. Due to no other appropriate places being available or no agreed process with partnership organisations.
As a result of changes in NTW/Northumbria and improvements, our area (the North East) has only had one person taken to custody on a s136 since April 2015. This is such a massive step forward; if someone is deemed to be mentally unwell and at risk or is a risk to others, then the most unhelpful environment for them to be in is an uncomfortable cell alone, yet surrounded by drunken screams.
Another piece of evidence for the improvement is that on a crisis feedback survey by the CQC sent to service users, Police were the best statutory agency who responded in the most caring way (with voluntary/charity workers being first overall) A&E was the worst response for attitudes and dealing with a mental health crisis! To be honest, if you'd asked me - even before the changes, I'd have given the same response.
Another improvement that is still in its planning phase, is Crisis Simulation Training. This additional genius concept, is set to consist of gathering a variety of groups of professionals, such as A&E staff, Paramedics, Crisis Nurses, Social Workers and Psychiatrists and working through a worst case scenario that they could potentially be faced with and evaluate each of their responses, for services who differ in their response to discuss their rationale, and to improve communication between services.
I'll be working in partnership with NTW and Northumbria Police on a number of projects, amd I'm excited to take you guys along the way!
I guess that in doing this, I hope that those who live in the North East and have a negative view on these services, are reassured in knowing that they're making an effort. They acknowledge that changes need to be made, and they're trying. And for those out of this area, improvements like this
are often rolled out nationally to other Forces when they are seen to have been beneficial.