SHOCKING new figures have revealed that 20 per cent of police time in East Staffordshire is spent dealing with mental health related incidents.
The statistics, uncovered by police and crime commissioner Matthew Ellis, show a previously unseen picture of the impact that cuts in mental health provisions - such as the closure of inpatient psychiatric facility the Margaret Stanhope Centre - are having on policing in the area.
Now, the policing boss is pushing for fundamental changes to the way mental health crisis services are delivered across the area.
He said: “This has highlighted the scale of the problem and made it clear that a lack of joined-up services and a lack of the right support at the right time for people in mental health crisis are key reasons why individuals end up in police cells instead of more appropriate facilities.
“The system across Burton needs to work more collaboratively if we are to stop seeing people who are simply ill locked up in cells and also health and social care professionals, rather than police officers, looking after the needs of often highly vulnerable people.
“What I am certain of is that the determination and genuine ambition that is being shown will result in more effective support and a better, fairer system.
“It’s about ensuring the system fits better the needs of individuals with mental health challenges wherever they are in Burton.”
According to the report commissioned by Mr Ellis in April 2013, there were 169 people in 2012-13 with a suspected mental health condition held in police cells in Staffordshire rather than more appropriate facilities because none were available.
In the same year, a total of 659 individuals were Sectioned under the Mental Health Act and detained by police.
The ‘Staffordshire Report’ also made clear that a lack of the right support for people suffering from mental illness was a key reason for why individuals end up in police cells instead of more appropriate facilities.
It highlighted too that some individuals end up in the courts unnecessarily when they are ill, not criminals.
Since the report, Mr Ellis has been calling for fundamental change to the way mental health crisis services are delivered across Staffordshire.
Earlier this year, senior representatives from health, social care, local authorities and police in the area agreed that police custody cells are ‘fundamentally the wrong place for individuals with a mental health condition to be held unless they have committed an offence’.
Mr Ellis said what he was provided with serious cause for concern not only for policing but primarily because individuals who are simply ill find themselves locked in a cell because the right services aren’t available in the right way.
He said: “Nearly all the agencies a that can make change happen are now working together at the highest level.”