Mental health nurses are to be based in police stations in ten areas across the country to help police officers respond to calls and identify those with problems.
The pilot scheme – being run in Wakefield – is designed to cut reoffending and should free up police time – up to a quarter of which is spent dealing with those with mental health issues.
The £25m “liaison and diversion schemes” will also be run in Avon and Wiltshire, Coventry, Dorset, Essex, Leicester, London, Merseyside, Sunderland and Middlesbrough and Sussex and if a success will be extended across England by 2017.
Being diagnosed with a mental health, learning difficulty or substance abuse problem will mean people can be offered treatment or support, and could affect how they are dealt with by the criminal justice system, ministers say.
Policing minister Damian Green said: “Police officers should be focused on fighting crimes and people with mental health conditions should get the care they need as early as possible.
“These pilots will not only ensure that happens but, in the longer term, will help drive down reoffending by individuals who, with the right kind of treatment, can recover fully.”
Police officers are frustrated with the way mental health is dealt with in the criminal justice system, with people coming in and out of prison without having the underlying issues in their lives properly examined, campaigners have said.
Dr Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Nurses bring vital skills and knowledge to these complex and challenging cases and we know that the police greatly value working in partnership with nursing staff.
“Having more nurses in liaison and diversion services will improve the health care that people in the criminal justice system receive and it will also support the police’s public protection work.”
Health minister Norman Lamb added: “There are so many people in our prisons with mental health problems which haven’t been diagnosed and yet, if we diagnose them and deal with them, we can reduce reoffending. It just makes so much sense from everyone’s point of view.”
Date posted: January 9, 2014