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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

PCCs spotlight better mental health practice

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The election of a Conservative government means that PCCs are here to stay (Labour would have abolished them), and there is much to learn from how the first generation of PCCs have approached these challenging partnership issues, and used their role to help improve responses in their area. Given the current state of crisis in the police, probation and prison services, the leadership of PCCs may turn out to be critical and there is real value in this briefing series which points the way forward, instead of merely identifying problems.

Police and Crime Commissioners drive improvements in mental health

The Revolving Doors Agency has just (14 May 2015) published the second in its series of briefings spotlighting promising work instigated by Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) which is ripe for replication elsewhere.

One in four people experience a mental health problem in their lifetime. While many will have limited contact with the police, it is also true that a high level of police demand is linked to mental health related incidents (estimated at 20%-40%), and a significant proportion of the offending population experience poor mental health – research suggests 72% of prisoners face two or more mental health problems.

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Case studies

The briefing, developed in partnership with the Transition to Adulthood Alliance, argues that PCCs are in an important position locally to bring key strategic partners together and improve responses, and highlights areas of promising practice including:

  • Greater Manchester – where the PCC is leading improved partnership working PCC mental health spotlight coverthrough the Greater Manchester Strategic Mental Health Partnership board, including access to a 24/7 mental health ‘triage’ phone advice service; plans for improved coordination of follow-on support through a Navigation Pathways programme; and the rollout of a successful approach that works intensively with clients who use crisis services repeatedly.
  •  Norfolk – Where the PCC has funded a comprehensive offender health profile, including a focus on mental health, which identified key issues and gaps in provision. This has led to the establishment of an offender health focused group on the Health and Wellbeing Board to improve integration of commissioning, and a focus on improved pathways for female offenders with personality disorders.
  •  Staffordshire – Where the PCC conducted research to understand the level of demand mental health incidents place of the police, and has reviewed strategic partnership arrangements to develop new governance structures and hold partners to account more effectively.

While most PCCs are now prioritising mental health, the briefing highlights some common themes that should be part of plans including: providing strategic leadership and coordination; intervening earlier to prevent crisis; and reducing repeat demand through pathways into holistic and tailored support for people facing multiple and complex needs.

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Conclusion

There is renewed (much overdue) attention on the issue of mental health in the criminal justice system best evidenced by the  national rollout of Mental Health Liaison and Diversion schemes.

The election of a Conservative government means that PCCs are here to stay (Labour would have abolished them), and there is much to learn from how the first generation of PCCs have approached these challenging partnership issues, and used their role to help improve responses in their area.

Given the current state of crisis in the police, probation and prison services, the leadership of PCCs may turn out to be critical and there is real value in this briefing series which points the way forward, instead of merely identifying problems. 

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