The government has announced extra funding for mental health nurses to be based at police stations and courts across the country.
The Department of Health said today that it would provide £25m over the next year to pilot new mental health liaison and diversion services to work with police stations and courts.
It said the money would be invested so people with mental health illnesses, learning disabilities and substance misuse problems received treatment at “the earliest possible stage”.
Care and support minister Norman Lamb said: “Too often people with mental health illnesses who come into contact with the criminal justice system are only diagnosed when they reach prison.
“We want to help them get the right support and treatment as early as possible. Diverting the individual away from offending and helping to reduce the risk of more victims suffering due to further offences benefits everyone.”
The DH said 10 areas would be testing out a new model of liaison and diversion services to ensure quality of services were consistent across the country.
Under the plans, those with mental health illnesses, substance misuse problems and learning disabilities suspected of committing an offence would have an assessment of their health needs, including mental health.
This information may be shared with police and the courts to help ensure decisions made about charging and sentencing take into consideration an individual’s health needs. It will also mean treatment is given sooner, which will help stop re-offending, the DH said.
The first areas receiving the funding are: Merseyside, London, Avon and Wiltshire, Leicester, Sussex; Dorset, Sunderland and Middlesbrough, Coventry, South Essex, and Wakefield.
These new services will be evaluated and if successful, extended to the rest of the country by 2017, the DH added.
The move follows the 2009 Bradley Report, which found that the majority of people who end up in prison have a mental health problem, a substance misuse problem or a learning disability.
Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, described the announcement as a “positive step”.
He said: “Nurses bring vital skills and knowledge to these complex and challenging cases and we know that the police greatly value working in partnership with nursing staff.
“Having more nurses in liaison and diversion services will improve the healthcare that people in the criminal justice system receive and it will also support the police’s public protection work,” he added.
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