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New mental health expert set to ‘save hours of police time’

October 2, 2013

MENTAL health has become a ‘big issue’ in Staffordshire – propelled into the spotlight by The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

The subject went to the front of the queue after The Office appointed a mental health programme manager as part of ongoing work to stop criminalising people who are ill.

Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis believes the move will also free up police time and ensure officers are not tied up with issues on which they are unqualified to deal.

Officers responded to 15,000 incidents in Staffordshire last year involving people with mental health issues, many of which could have been dealt with by “more appropriate agencies”.

In work commissioned earlier this year, a case by case report highlighted the scale of the problem, how much time officers spend dealing with mental health issues and the significant impact this has on operational policing.

The Staffordshire Review came from a series of meetings the Commissioner held with frontline officers to discuss the issues that affected them most.

It has so far focused ongoing discussions with mental health agencies who are working to create round-the-clock response teams, working closely with officers.

Mr Ellis, who has now appointed a programme manager to take the work forward, said: “Mental health is a huge issue across the whole of the UK. In Staffordshire, I said we needed to do something serious about it.

“We’ve now got an expert on mental health working with us to significantly increase the pace of business in this crucial area of work and programme manage real progress.

“We need to stop criminalising people who are ill and release police officer time.

“The police service tends to be the first port of call when such people need assistance, or find themselves in difficulty, and I think this needs to change.

“Police officers do have a role in stabilising incidents and keeping people safe but then need the appropriate service to take over. Thousands of hours of officer time is spent dealing with these issues when they should be out supporting their communities.

“There needs to be a 24/7 solution that properly supports people with mental health issues and allows police officers to do the job they are qualified to do.

“This is a big challenge but I am hopeful we can make a real difference.”

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