The Government has released the first wave of funding for mental health “places of safety” in a bid to keep the mentally ill out of police cells.
Some 41 projects will benefit from a share of the £15 million fund to improve provision of mental health shelters.
The Department of Health is looking to put an end to situations that see people experiencing mental health crises, and having committed no crime, being placed in police cells.
The Government estimates that hundreds of people are locked in cells every year because the proper health services are not available in time.
The first wave of bids, totalling £6.1 million, has been awarded to 15 NHS trusts and partnership organisations covering 11 police force areas.
The full list covers Avon and Somerset, Cleveland, Derbyshire, Devon and Cornwall, Essex, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire, Sussex, West Yorkshire, and Wiltshire police force areas.
Projects include new section 136 suites, crisis cafés, triage vehicles and places of safety for children and young people.
The projects have been focused where use of police cells as a place of safety has previously been amongst the highest in the country.
Jeremy Hunt, health secretary, said: “This government is committed to ending the scandal of people in crisis being locked up in police cells.
“When a person is experiencing a mental health crisis they need the right care, in the right place and at the right time.
“We are fully committed to improving mental health services across the country and these projects will help support people at a crucial time.”
The Government has also opened the bidding process for the remaining £8.9 million of funding to the rest of England.
Through local Crisis Care Concordat groups, organisations including mental health trusts, clinical commissioning groups, police forces, local authorities and the voluntary and community sector can bid for the funding here.
The funding can be used for refurbishments of existing places of safety, building new places of safety and creating mental health crisis cafés, among other things.
Amber Rudd, home secretary, said: “We have seen good progress on our manifesto commitment to reduce the use of cells, with numbers dropping by 32% across England and Wales in just one year. But there is still more to do, and the 41 projects announced today will provide vital facilities for those in crisis to ensure they get the compassionate care and support they need.
“The police should never be the default response for someone experiencing a mental health crisis.
“And we are going further, bringing important changes to legislation through the Policing and Crime Bill to ensure that police cells are only used as a place of safety for adults in exceptional circumstances, and will ban their use altogether for under 18s.”
Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at Mind, the mental health charity, said the announcement was “welcome”.
She said: “When you are in crisis you need to be in an appropriate, safe, therapeutic environment, not treated like a criminal. This funding will help provide more suitable places to take people in some areas, and we look forward to future announcements detailing how the rest of the £15m will reach frontline services, urgently, to ensure people in crisis get the help they need, when they need it.”
However, she added that the Policing and Crime Bill “doesn’t go far enough”.
She continued: “We believe no one should end up in a police cell when they are in a mental health crisis and we are calling on the Government to take the opportunity presented by the Policing and Crime Bill to ban the practice altogether.”
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