THE man who oversees policing in Staffordshire has called for a ‘fundamental overhaul’ in the way mental health services are provided in Burton.
Matthew Ellis, police and crime commissioner for the county, revealed that a report he commissioned showed that around 20 per cent of total police time in Staffordshire is spent dealing with mental health related incidents.
The ‘Staffordshire Report’ also showed that a lack of the right support for people suffering from mental illness is a key reason why individuals end up in police cells. He also cited the much criticised move to close the inpatient mental house facility in Burton, the Margaret Stanhope Centre, as a reason for a sharp rise in the problem.
Mr Ellis said: “Staffordshire is not unique and the difficulties experienced here are replicated in other parts of the country.
“The lack of mental health ‘places of safety’ mean police cells are often used and the inadequacy of 24/7 mental health crisis services are a big part of the problem for Burton.
“But those issues are just symptomatic of a system across Staffordshire athat needs an urgent rethink and overhaul.
“Current arrangements are failing individuals who need support rather than being criminalising and it is costing more than needed because of inadvertent cost shunting from one public agency to another.
“Addressing the fundamental problems with the system as it is now could free up more resource to widen the support available for people and deal with issues earlier and more effectively for the individuals and for taxpayers.
“Front line professionals are trying hard to make a system work on the ground that is obviously flawed at the highest design level locally.
“Funding for mental health sits with numerous different agencies including local authorities, different parts of the NHS and local GP groups.
“This is a challenge which is not being addressed as it needs to be.
“My plea is to join up ways of working and to use the funding available as a more integrated sector rather than in silos.”
Mr Ellis revealed that mental health chiefs will come together in January to discuss ways of improvement.