An almost 30% increase in the number of mental health-related callouts this year is diverting police time away from fighting crime and shows the urgent need for a specialist facility run by health professionals, the Force’s Chief has said.
Robin Smith said that thousands of hours of police time were being spent dealing with islanders’ mental crises, when police officers were not often the right service to deal with them.
His political boss, Home Affairs Minister Deputy Helen Miles, added that the lack of a ‘mental-health suite’ – a secure place where people having a mental crisis can be assessed by health professionals – was a “running sore” in Jersey.
Both addressed the issue when they were questioned by a panel of politicians on Friday.
Setting the scene, Mr Smith said: “Crime is down both this year and last year, but police demand is up by about 6%, which might surprise islanders. Around 15%-20% of what the police does is crime; the rest is what I often describe as ‘all the other stuff’.
“One area where we have seen significant increases is mental health-related incidents, which are up 27% this year, as of today, and that is on top of an increase last year."
Pictured: In August, 1,700 police hours were spent dealing with people experiencing a mental health crisis.
He continued: “On average, we estimate around four mental health-related incidents a day, and that is people who are in some form of crisis. That has significant demand on policing.”
He added: “These are people who are poorly, and we spend an enormous amount of time waiting for them to be assessed while they are in the hospital.
“For context, in August, we had 159 mental health-related calls and we estimate we spent 1,700 hours dealing with them.
“In September, we had 132 incidents, and spent 800 hours dealing with them.
“On average, we spend five hours per mental health issue.”
Stating why a mental health suite – away from Police Headquarters – would be advantageous, he said: “It would help us enormously by being able to put people who are having a health crisis in a secure place without the need for police officers to spend sometimes upward of six hours – and the other day, 14 hours - while we detain someone under mental health legislation.”
Pictured: Police Chief Robin Smith.
Mr Smith said that a suite had been due to open next month but it had been pushed back to next spring.
Deputy Miles added: “A mental health suite is a place of safety, where someone experiencing significant mental health illness can be taken by police or other practitioners and assessed by qualified people who make decision where to place them.
“Every local hospital in the UK has one – often called a ‘136 Suite’ - which is sometimes attached to A&E and sometimes to mental health units.
“The establishment of this type of suite in Jersey has been a running sore. It has been deemed that there is not capacity within A&E for one, and you have to take account of staffing issues because it would not be staffed all the time.”
The Minister added that there was provision for a suite in the new hospital plans, which are being overseen by Infrastructure Minister Deputy Tom Binet.
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