cell doorA trial testing a new model of liaison and diversion (L&D) has gone live in 10 locations across England, which will see mental health professionals in police stations and courts to ensure people with mental health conditions and learning disabilities get the right treatment promptly.

As announced in January by the Department of Health, £25 million will be invested in police stations and courts. Ten trial schemes, commissioned by NHS England, will run for 12 months and, if successful, the model will be extended to all areas. The scheme aims to cover the population of England by 2017.

L&D services aim to identify, assess and refer people with mental health, learning disability, substance misuse and social vulnerabilities into treatment or support services when they first come into contact with the police and criminal justice system. 

Almost one third of young people between the ages of 13 and 18 who offend have a mental health need and almost half of adult prisoners suffer from anxiety and or depression, compared to 15% of the general population. By getting this support at an early stage it can reduce the likelihood that they will reach crisis point as well as helping to reduce re-offending and contact with the police.

The areas selected to test the new model are: London, Wakefield, Coventry, Merseyside, South Essex, Sussex, Leicestershire, Dorset, Sunderland/Middlesbrough and Bristol.  

During the trial a range of L&D activities will be developed such as improving youth provision towards an all age service, providing services at all times to reflect need and developing partnerships between judiciary, police and mental health agencies.

Right support at the right time

Care and Support Minister, Norman Lamb, said: “I am committed to improving mental health care for everyone. I want to build a fairer society and that’s why we’ve invested £25 million in this valuable scheme to make sure people with mental health problems who come in to contact with the criminal justice system get the support they need at the right time.”

Kate Davies OBE, head of health & justice, armed forces and public health direct commissioning at NHS England, said these services mark an achievement in providing better healthcare and support for those who need it the most. “Whether it is a son, daughter, friend or neighbour, all vulnerable people in contact with police or courts will in future receive the same support and service despite where they are in England. The 10 schemes trialling the new model have started to make this change and improvement of these services a reality so that vulnerable people can receive the treatment and support that they desperately need.”

Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Chris Bourlet added: “Mental health teams working in police stations is a very positive initiative that will ensure the most appropriate care and support is given sooner to those in need.

“We know people coming into police custody are more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and by working in partnership, we can make sure those people also get the most appropriate on-going support when they leave.”