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Pioneering Nottinghamshire Police team helping to cut mental health detentions

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A pioneering police team is helping to reduce the number of people detained because of their mental health.

The street triage team sees police and NHS specialists work in partnership to respond in the most effective way to people in mental health crisis ­— often those who are threatening harm to themselves or others.

By combining their skills and experience, team members ­— supported by access to police computer systems ­— are better able to respond to people’s needs and direct them to help without using their legal powers to detain them.

Sergeant Anthony Horsnall. (56546934)
Sergeant Anthony Horsnall. (56546934)

Since April 2021 the team has helped to record the lowest ever number of detentions under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act, with 338 recorded in total.

That figure has reduced by more than 66% since the team was first introduced back in 2014.

Sergeant Anthony Horsnall has led the team for the last eight years. He said: “When people are in mental health crisis our immediate priority is to keep them and those around them safe from harm.

“As police officers we have the legal power to detain them but in reality that is the very last thing we want to have to do because we understand how distressing that experience can be to people who are already very vulnerable.

“Ultimately our aim is to help that person get the specialist support they need in order for them to address the behaviours that have brought us into contact with them.

“By working in partnership with specialist healthcare providers for so long we now have a very good intelligence picture of many of the people who need our help. We understand the challenges they have and how best to respond to those challenges.

“We are also better able to respond to people who are completely new to us by getting them specialist help at the earliest possible opportunity – all while causing them the minimal amount of additional distress.”

Another element of the team’s work is proactive intervention before people face a crisis.

Thanks to the recent addition of an extra police officer and a high intensity mental health practitioner, the team is now reaching out to and helping more people than ever before.

A recent example of this work involved a woman who had been repeatedly calling the force control room to accuse her neighbours of various non-existent offences.

Sergeant Horsnall added: “This was obviously a person who required significant police resources at a cost to the public, but who also very clearly needed help she wasn’t getting from elsewhere.

“After the case was referred to us, our high intensity practitioner nurse worked with the local neighbourhood policing team, housing officers and adult social care to ensure she had the help she needed.

“Eventually, this approach succeeded in getting her a hospital admission to treat her illness and reduce the demand she was placing on our service.”

The street triage team operates between 8am and 1am everyday and will travel to anywhere in the county to support front-line officers dealing with high-risk incidents.

People who are already using mental health services are encouraged to follow the crisis information which they have been given. Anyone who isn’t already being seen can refer themselves for crisis support on 0808 196 3779.

Alternatively, people can also seek support from their GP, by calling Samaritans on 116 123 or by calling NHS 111.

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