Crime Commissioner backs mental health plans

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird.

Changes to the way mentally-ill people are dealt with by the police are being backed by the Northumbria force’s commissioner, Vera Baird.

Home Secretary Theresa May has pledged a ban on the use of police cells for the emergency detention of people with mental health issues.

Supporting vulnerable people is a high priority.

Vera Baird

The move, announced as part of the Queen’s Speech, has been welcomed by Mrs Baird.

Northumbria Police already has a specialist street triage team to improve services for people experiencing a mental health crisis and to avoid unnecessary detentions when using the 1983 Mental Health Act.

Mrs Baird said: “I have always made it clear that custody suites are for those suspected of committing a crime, not for people who are suffering from mental health issues.

“I’m all too aware that people who come into contact with the police may need to be assessed and considered as potentially needing some mental health support or assistance, which is why the street triage team was introduced.

“In Northumbria, we also have nurses in our custody suites who can provide support.

The team, introduced last year, consults the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.

The service aims to improve access to mental health services and avoid unnecessary detentions when using section 136 of the Mental Health Act, allowing the police to take people to a place of safety to receive the help they need, plus any follow-up care required from specialist services.