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Minister commends work to improve mental health services

Matthew Scott, Sarah Newton MP and other dignitaries at the Mental Health Conference on 20 June
Future plans to improve services for people suffering a mental health crisis in Kent have received praise from the Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism.
Kent Police and the Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust (KMPT) already work together on a number of initiatives, but also recognise there is more work to do and so have agreed a joint Mental Health Strategy which aims to provide the right care and support for all those in crisis.
The strategy was launched at a joint Mental Health Conference in Maidstone on 20 June.
Keynote speaker Sarah Newton MP, whose ministerial portfolio includes mental health issues, told the conference:

‘Around a third of all incidents dealt with by the police in Kent have a mental health element. The scale of this type of demand is a common refrain across police areas.
‘As the Prime Minister has repeatedly said - we should not expect the police to act in the stead of health professionals. They cannot be expected to do this satisfactorily. And it cannot be in the best interests of the people affected. Instead they need quick access to appropriate professional mental health assistance, according to their needs.’

She added:

‘I am particularly encouraged that your strategy talks not only about crisis point resolution, but about work to prevent people from ever reaching that crisis point. And that it talks about a range of services and interventions and joint working to achieve this - building on some proven good practice.’

This was the first Mental Health Conference of its kind in Kent, with around 100 delegates from charities, local authorities, commissioning groups, and community safety and criminal justice partners represented.
They heard how Kent’s Community Street Triage scheme, where mental health nurses join police officers on patrol at key times in Thanet, is delivering a better service for vulnerable people.
For example, when the team responded to a call from a deaf woman who had self-harmed, the mental health nurse was able to promptly assess the woman and refer her for treatment. Had Kent Police officers responded alone, there would have been a significant delay before an assessment was made and the woman may have had to be taken to a police cell under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.
It is hoped there will be similar successes when the street triage scheme extends to Medway today (22 June).
Kent Police Chief Constable Alan Pughsley said:

‘Very often, police custody is the last place vulnerable people experiencing a mental health crisis should be, but police are often the first point of contact in these circumstances.
‘With closer joint working, improved systems and information sharing, this new partnership approach will put vulnerable people first, and will help to ensure they get the most appropriate and professional support they require.’

Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott, who chaired a panel discussion on future mental health legislation at the conference, said:

‘Mental health is one of the biggest challenges facing policing today.
‘In Medway, it is estimated that 57% of police time is spent dealing with mental health issues and in Thanet it is 50%. These figures are not sustainable for policing, but changing how we tackle this issue is not just about freeing up police resources.
‘It is also about ensuring vulnerable people get the right support from the right person at the right time. Often there are other agencies, like the NHS, who are better trained and better placed to deal with those in mental health crisis than police officers.’

KMPT’s Chief Executive Helen Greatorex said:

‘Working with Matthew Scott, Kent Police and the South East Coast Ambulance Trust is helping us to improve the care we are providing, often to some of our most vulnerable.

'Working so closely within this partnership we have already achieved so much. It has helped us to reach people who may not have even realised they needed help. It has also helped to ensure we are taking appropriate action where needed, taking people to the right places of safety or directing people to the right organisations for the help they need.

'There is still work to be done, but this conference has been an opportunity to continue those discussions, to talk about what we’ve done and our hopes for the future. This has been the perfect platform to set ourselves stretching targets and I look forward to meeting again next year to see what we’ve achieved and the impact we’ve made.'

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