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by | Friday, November 15th, 2019 | News

A pioneering project supporting vulnerable offenders with underlying mental health issues has been praised by the NHS Director responsible for the programme.

Kate Davies, Director of Health and Justice, Armed Forces and Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) for NHS England, and her team paid a visit to Plymouth to find out how the Community Sentence Treatment Requirement (CSTR) pilot was progressing.

The pilot has been running since November 2017 and helps people access treatment for moderate mental health issues as part of a community or suspended sentence order.

Livewell,in collaboration with Harbour Drug and Alcohol Service, Devon Partnership Trust and the courts, has led one of five original test sites across England and Wales in running the pilot.

The aim is to support people to develop positive coping strategies with the hope of reducing reoffending and short-term prison sentences through a 12-15 week treatment programme and post-treatment follow up.

As part of the treatment, people work through problem solving and behavioural activation tasks and work through alternative coping strategies.

Hazel Roberts, Clinical Team Manager at Livewell and lead on the pilot, said: “A number of people coming through the criminal justice system are experiencing mental health problems or substance misuse.

“Lots of the people we support through this pilot have poor impulse control, a lack of social skills and bad coping strategies, rooted in an underlying trauma.

“The programme helps to unpick those traumas and supports people to look at more positive coping strategies and we offer lots of motivation and support and regular check ins.

“By treating these underlying mental health needs, we’re able to help reduce the likelihood of them reoffending as well as improving the outcomes for that person and the wider community.”

So far, more than 60 people have successfully been supported by the programme, helping to avoiding a custodial sentence.

Plymouth was selected as a test-bed site for the pilot as there was already an existing integrated complex needs team made up of Livewell and Harbour staff delivering substance misuse and alcohol support services.

Hazel added: “We saw this as a good opportunity to get an integrated mental health service working closely with the courts and probation, DPT’s Liaison and Diversion Service which identifies people suitable for the order and ourselves and Harbour to support people with health needs that wouldn’t be met or helped by serving a prison sentence.

“A lot of people are shocked to be in court and this is a real window of opportunity to get someone to look at what’s going on in their life and support them with the hope that we can help them to not reoffend again.”

Following her visit, Kate Davies, praised the work taking place.

Writing to Hazel and the team, she said: “I came away with a feeling of passion and drive to make a difference for vulnerable offenders within the CJS.

“I was also impressed by the integrated partnership working with the L&D team, HMCTS, probation, health and substance misuse providers along with support from colleagues around lived experience, commissioners within Health and Justice, CCG and the PCC’s office.”

Hazel added: “We were delighted to welcome Kate and her team to Plymouth to see how we’ve progressed with the pilot and we are glad that they recognise the difference we are making to people’s lives.

“People think this is an easy route and an easy option but in reality it’s incredibly difficult to get someone to look at their coping strategies and identify that they need to make a difference.

“Our set up is quite unique compared to the other sites because it’s led by a nurse and not a psychologist.

“We have two excellent members of staff delivering the treatment Damien Bleakley and John Langley who are a Community Psychiatric Nurse and a counsellor specialising in substance misuse and they really work with people focusing on what’s important to them.

“We don’t exclude people and we’ve had very few people that the programme has not successfully worked for.

“We’re currently involved in setting up the national framework so that this can be rolled out across the country and looking at how we can improve our partnership working to further our offer.”

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