Birmingham & Black Country

Mental health police project shared in West Midlands

west midlands triage team Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption The team has dealt with almost 2,000 people since January

A pilot project enabling mental health experts to team up with West Midlands Police to assess people to try to keep them out of custody is to be expanded.

Since January, psychiatric nurses and paramedics have joined police in Birmingham and Solihull in dealing with people believed to be mentally unwell.

The team has dealt with almost 2,000 people since then, with only 227 being detained under the Mental Health Act, down from 504 in 2013.

They will now cover the Coventry area.

'Cultural shift'

The project will start there from December and there are plans to introduce the initiative across the Black Country, a spokesman said.

Of the 227 people detained this year, only two were taken to police stations, while the remainder taken to safe health facilities, they added.

Ch Insp Sean Russell, who has overseen the trial, said: "Around 20% of police demand is due to mental health issues.

"In the past we've not worked alongside agencies like the ambulance service and mental health providers and it's meant too many people ending up in police custody and essentially being criminalised for being unwell.

"It's also meant many hours of police time have been wasted.

"This scheme is a cultural shift, we share more information and work closely together."

The family of former factory worker Mikey Powell, from Birmingham, had campaigned for the scheme.

He died after being restrained by police while having a psychotic episode.

The Coventry scheme will operate from 17:00 to 02:00 GMT seven days a week.

Rachel Newson, Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust said: "The most important thing is doing all we can to help people experiencing a mental health crisis."

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