Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon has secured funding of £90,000 for a new service to help vulnerable people.
The money, from the Home Office, will help fund two specially equipped vehicles to be staffed by police officers and with facilities for mental health nurses.
They will help those in mental distress when involved in an incident.
Police – often first on the scene at an incident – now occasionally have no choice but to take the person into custody until health treatment can be provided.
It is hoped the Mobile Assessment and Support Team (MAST) units will reduce the need for such action. A partnership between Dyfed- Powys Police, Hywel Dda University Health Board, Powys Teaching Health Board and the Welsh Ambulance Service, the units could be operational by the end of this summer.
Mr Salmon said: “For a number of reasons, police cells are regularly used for those suffering with potentially traumatic episodes.
“MAST is the innovative alternative; it will provide the most appropriate service to people in mental distress at the earliest opportunity – and will save time and money for the police, ambulance and health services.
“I’m delighted that my application for Home Office funding has succeeded. This project will offer new support to individuals at a time when they’re particularly vulnerable and will help Dyfed-Powys Police and others become more effective on the front line.”
Dyfed-Powys Chief Constable Simon Prince said: “MAST will provide the communities of Dyfed-Powys with a mobile and dynamic assessment facility during mental health detentions.
“The vision for the project is to take bold and innovative steps to provide a better service for people suffering with issues relating to their mental health.”
Hywel Dda University Health Board Deputy Chief Executive Karen Howell said: “We are pleased and excited by the opportunity to work more closely with Dyfed-Powys Police and other partner agencies, to ensure the needs of our population are better met.
“This innovative development will ensure that vulnerable people experiencing a mental health crisis receive timely and appropriate care and treatment more flexibly in their own communities.”
Powys Teaching Health Board Director of Nursing Carol Shillabeer said: “We and the wider mental health partnership are committed to supporting those with mental health needs. It is important to get them the help they need swiftly.
“We work closely with a number of other public services to ensure the safety of all of our patients and I welcome the addition of the MAST service.”
Police cells are used to hold individuals with mental health issues when health services are stretched or when the individual has drunk too much or is being violent.
Dyfed-Powys Police managed 176 such detentions in the 10 months up to February 2013. Only three (2%) resulted in a crime being recorded and, on average, it took eight hours 48 minutes in detention for the individual to be seen by the appropriate mental health team.
Mr Prince said: “The MAST units, that will be deployed all over the force area, will transport a detainee to a place of safety, offer assessment facilities for a health professional and free up police officer time within custody suites.”
The Dyfed-Powys bid to the Home Office’s fledgling Police Innovation Fund was £90,701 for 2013-14. The police force and health partners will collectively contribute a further £60,468 for the year. The 2014-15 running cost for MAST will be £220,675 and met by the local partners.
Dyfed-Powys Police mental health detentions cost the taxpayer around £313,000 every year in policing budget. It is hoped that MAST will decrease such detention figures by 80% and that a £249,200 police saving will be made in 2014-15.
MAST is designed to match the geographically expansive needs of Dyfed-Powys, which covers four counties across half of Wales – 4,188 square miles – with a challenging road network which has fewer than five miles of motorway.
Among the other services provided by the project will be a 24-hour on-call phone advice service, with access to specific advice for under-25s.
Dyfed-Powys’s two Mental Health Partnership Boards will scrutinise the pilot scheme and its outcomes. The Department of Police Sciences at the University of South Wales will undertake an academic evaluation of the project.
Every police force in England and Wales will receive a share of this year’s £20m Home Office precursor Police Innovation Fund for projects aimed at transforming policing.
Policing Minister Damian Green said: “We have some exciting projects in this year’s round, and I am looking forward to seeing the results.”
- Provision of specialist advice from mental health practitioners to police officers at the scene of incidents;
- To explore a wider range of options and interventions in relation to mental-health, before arrest or detention under Section 136;
- Attend mental health incidents where additional support or a mental-health assessment of an individual is required;
- Better inform police decision making and risk assessment in relation to mental health cases, including appropriate access to patient information that informs care needed at the time;
- To provide a holistic, wrap-around service in partnership with the voluntary sector to ensure that detainees get the required support after a Section 136 has been issued.
MAST Key Efficiencies
- Individuals in mental distress receive a timely, appropriate and local service during incidents;
- Reduction in individuals (and repeats) detained under Section 136;
- Reduction in individuals detained in police cells awaiting a mental-health assessment;
- Significant reduction in time to deal with mental-health related calls for service;
- Reduction in time before an individual detained is assessed by an approved mental-health practitioner;
- Reduced demand on frontline police officers to attend to individuals in mental distress;
- Reduced demand on officers in supervising individuals in mental distress in custody;
- Reduced demand on officers to convey individuals to places of safety (particularly pertinent in largest geographical force in England and Wales;
- Reduction in cost associated with attending to mental health incidents, including detention of individuals in police cells;
- Reduced demand on the Welsh Ambulance Service in regards to conveying to hospital / A&E.
Home Office Police Innovation Fund Click