Stephen Bett voiced his concern about the use of police cells for people with mental health issues following on from the Panorama programme ‘Locked up for being ill?‘ broadcast on BBC One on Monday 9 September.
Stephen called for resources to be put in place by health and mental health commissioners and by social services to ensure that people detained under section 136 are assessed quickly in a health-based setting.
He said “Too often police officers and police staff are dealing with people with complex mental health needs rather than experienced and trained medical professionals. A police cell is not an appropriate place for someone suffering mental health problems. “
Stephen said that in Norfolk almost all of the section136 detentions being held in police custody rather than a health based place of safety occur due either because the person has consumed alcohol or because the health based place of safety has insufficient staffing levels, particularly overnight.
“Dealing with mental health issues is taking up huge amounts of police time and detracting from the front line.”
The PCC was pleased that the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust have begun to work more closely with Norfolk Constabulary, spearheading innovations such as sharing information more effectively between the health services and police about the needs of individuals, and developing training for frontline police to better deal with people suffering from mental health issues.
Stephen went on to say “At a time of austerity, now is the time for Partners to work together to resolve these issues rather than participating in a ‘blame game’ or seeking to pass on responsibilities for service provision to other equally cash strapped organisations.”
- Section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983 allows a police officer to remove a person they think is mentally disordered and ‘in immediate need of care or control’ from a public place to a place of safety, in the interest of that person or for the protection of others.
- Norfolk constabulary pro-actively monitors all section 136 detentions and takes appropriate action through multi-agency groups to ensure that all are working towards reducing the number of people being taken into police custody.