PEOPLE experiencing mental health problems in South Tyneside are being offered a new service by the police and health service.
Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW) and Northumbria Police have teamed up to launch a specialist team who can be called out to incidents involving people with mental health problems.
The new Street Triage Team, which launches on Monday, will operate in South Tyneside, Sunderland and Gateshead.
Figures show that there were 18,000 mental health referrals last year in South Tyneside, and that on a ‘snapshot’ day on August 31, 1,824 patients used mental health services in the borough.
NTW team manager, Emma Bailey, said: “Working in this new collaborative way will achieve the best outcome for patients ensuring that they receive the right service, in a timely way and with the least possible restrictions.”
The new service aims to improve access to mental health services and avoid unnecessary detentions when using section 136 of the Mental Health Act, which allows police to take people to a place of safety from a public place.
The police can use this power if they believe a person has a mental illness and is in need of care.
National research throughout 2013 showed that 76 per cent of people detained under section 136 were returned to the community as not being mentally ill.
In response, NTW and Northumbria Police began work earlier this year to explore new ways of working and developed the Street Triage Team.
Ms Bailey added: “Working in this new collaborative way will achieve the best outcome for patients ensuring that they receive the right service, in a timely way and with the least possible restrictions.”
The new service aims to reduce inappropriate detentions to both hospital and custody. The scheme is a pilot which will run until the end of March 2015.
Chief Superintendent Ian Dawes, of Northumbria Police, said: “The Street Triage Team is an excellent example of partner agencies working together to ensure those detained by officers and thought to have a mental health illness receive an enhanced service.
“The dedicated team of four police officers will work alongside mental health nurses at core hours so that advice and information can be given.
“This will include detail about the person involved and their medical history so they receive the help they need plus any follow-up care required from specialist services.
“Our aim is to avoid detaining people unnecessarily under the Mental Health Act which we are confident will become the case as the scheme gets under way.”