Today (Monday 9 March) the Home Secretary attended the launch of a Home Office-funded pilot to provide an alternative place of safety for people detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
At the 2014 Policing and Mental Health Summit the Home Secretary announced that the Home Office would fund the Richmond Fellowship to deliver an alternative place of safety in Sussex.
Sussex Police and local partners, including Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust, the Sussex Clinical Commissioning Groups, NHS England and the Richmond Fellowship, agreed to participate in the pilot, which starts today and will run for twelve weeks.
In her speech, Home Secretary Theresa May said:
When vulnerable people with mental health needs experience a crisis, the police are often the first to be called upon to respond. Because of the lack of access to health-based places of safety, the police are too often forced to take someone detained under Section 136 to a police cell.
This is not good for people undergoing traumatic and frightening experiences and it is not a good use of police time.
That is why this pilot is vital. It is a fantastic step in the right direction and the facilities that have been developed are first rate.
The alternative place of safety will be based at a Richmond Fellowship residential care home in Horsham, West Sussex. The pilot is the only one in the country to be delivered by a third sector provider in a non-health, non-policing setting.
Sussex was chosen for the pilot because it faces particular challenges in terms of the number of people suffering mental health crises. The force already runs a successful ‘street triage’ pilot scheme, which sees police officers working with mental health professionals to ensure people suffering mental health crises are dealt with by the NHS rather than taken into police custody. So far the scheme has reported a 30% reduction in Section 136 detentions.
The Home Secretary added:
I have consistently said that the way we treat the most vulnerable in our society – at the moments when they are most in need – is of the utmost importance.
The pilot shows what can be done when different organisations work together to make a difference, and ensure people get the care and support they need; I hope the pilot we are launching today will just be the start.