People in Plymouth experiencing a mental health crisis are benefitting from a new initiative between Livewell Southwest, South Western Ambulance Service (SWASFT), and Devon and Cornwall Police.
The organisations have joined forces to launch a Mental Health Joint Response Unit, the first in the South West, to support people of all ages in crisis throughout the city at times when demand for mental health provision for the emergency services is at its peak.
Traditionally these people end up in hospital or are detained under the Mental Health Act which might not always be the best outcome for them.
This new initiative aims to make sure the best outcomes for those people as well as reducing unnecessary admissions to the Emergency Department.
Working together in a SWASFT response vehicle are a Paramedic, Police Officer and an Approved Mental Health Professional who can carry out certain duties under the Mental Health Act and support people if they are sectioned.
Sara Mitchell, Strategic Mental Health Lead at Livewell Southwest, the social enterprise delivering health and adult social care in Plymouth knows the value of having an approved mental health worker on board.
She said: “Being able to assess the person’s needs at their time of crisis makes it easier for all those involved to achieve the best support and outcomes for that person. Knowing that we have the support on the front line from both a medical and policing perspective will enable our mental health workers to assess the situation safely.”
Kevin McSherry, SWASFT County Commander for South and West Devon, has been key to making sure this initiative gets off the ground.
He said: “We know that we have a high demand on our mental health provision in the city for those in crisis. We also know when the peaks in demand are likely to be and therefore when people need us the most. Often the three services are attending the same incidents, sometimes at different times, making assessments and providing the right care more complex. We want to make sure that we are getting the right care at the ‘road side’ and that those experiencing crisis are given the best medical care and safeguarding support.”
Paramedics are at times challenged to attend incidents involving a person experiencing mental health crisis due to a potential risk of danger to the crew. They would often require police assistance.
Chief Inspector Rob Mooney who oversees policing for the city was keen to make sure the police were at the forefront of making improvements to mental health provision.
He said: “Whilst the paramedics treat any medial needs and the approved mental health professional looks after and evaluates the person’s mental health needs, the police will be on hand to calm any escalating situations and deal with any criminality that may have taken place. This vehicle will improve the service to the public and reduce demand on the hospital and our officers by dealing with the incident together at the scene.”
The service operates on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings between 5pm and 1am.
These times have been identified as when the most crisis calls come in.
Staff on board are working closely with other mental health providers throughout the city including the Crisis Café and Headspace to make sure the best outcome and sign-posting for those being supported.