MENTAL health practitioners will join forces with Dorset Police to help assist officers on patrol.
The 12-month pilot Mental Health Street Triage service will run across Dorset, starting from Friday.
It will continue to operate on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 7pm to 8.30am.
The scheme's aim is to provide police officers attending an incident with background medical information, advice, and if needed a full assessment regarding the mental health of a person.
As part of the street triage service, mental health practitioners from Dorset Healthcare will conduct a telephone triage service to support police officers out on patrol, assist officers when they are responding to emergency calls and give advice to staff in police control rooms.
The scheme will operate across Dorset and, at the request of the police, the mental health professionals will also attend incidents initially in the Bournemouth and Poole conurbations from their base at Bournemouth Police Station. This will extend to Weymouth in a few weeks’ time.
The service will be available to people of all ages, whether they have learning disabilities, personality disorder, substance misuse, or mental health issues and will also liaise with other agencies for continued support afterwards.
This scheme will divert people from the Criminal Justice System, when appropriate, and provide access to community-based services thereby ensuring that their health and social care needs are known and provided for by appropriate services.
Dorset Police and Crime commissioner Martyn Underhill said: “It is crucial that people with mental health problems get the right care in the right place, at the right time.
“With the support of health professionals, officers will have the assistance they need to treat vulnerable people appropriately in times of crisis. This is a huge step forwards in our partnership work between health services and the police.”
Chief Inspector Sarah Derbyshire, from Dorset Police, said: “Dorset Police have a crucial role in working with and supporting people with mental health problems.
"Officers may be the first to respond to urgent situations involving people with mental health problems and have to make quick decisions to assess the situation as well as the needs of the individuals involved.
"I believe that by working together we can improve the way people who are suffering with such health issues are dealt with.”
Stan Sadler, a mental health practitioner from Dorset Healthcare, added: “Dorset Healthcare welcomes the opportunity to work in such close collaboration with Dorset Police.
"The new street triage service will only serve to strengthen our existing mental health and learning disability services, and will have significant benefits for vulnerable people in crisis situations.
“Our aim is to see a reduction in the use of police cells as places of safety. We want to promote effective ways and alternatives to support the improved mental health and social functioning of people at the earliest opportunity.
“The opportunity to work in partnership with Dorset Police will prove of significant benefit to the provision of intervention to vulnerable people presenting in crisis situations when affected by mental health difficulties.
"It is our expectation that we reduce the inappropriate use of police cells as places of safety and promote effective pathways of diversion in support of improved health and social functioning at the earliest opportunity.”
Dr Paul French from NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group said: “The scheme should improve the care for patients requiring psychiatric help and avoid the use of police cells which can help minimise the distress patients experience and the subsequent impact on their conditions.
“Patients with a variety of mental health problems including bipolar disease, depressive illnesses, dementia, autism, severe anxiety and other conditions including schizophrenia and other psychotic illnesses will receive specialist help in an appropriate and timely way.”
Half of the funding for the street triage pilot has been awarded by the Office of the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner and Dorset Police, with contributions from Bournemouth Borough Council, Poole Borough Council, Dorset County Council, NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS England.