POLICE officers in Dorset are set to take part in a bespoke training programme at Bournemouth University as part of the county's Mental Health Street Triage Project.

Dorset HealthCare and the Dorset and Police Crime Commissioner have announced the partnership with the university to deliver the mental health training programme for officers.

The initiative aims to equip officers with improved knowledge and skills to assess members of the public who are displaying signs of mental health distress without enforcing powers under section 136 of the Mental Health Act that allow individuals to be taken into custody if they are deemed to be mentally unstable.

The partnership with Bournemouth University marks the next step for the project, which is already proving to be effective with no members of the public being taken to a police custody in July setting following detention under section 136 – the second time this has occurred since the project started.

The partnership announcement also follows news from the Department of Health that, since the national street triage project was implemented last year, the number of police cells used as a place of safety for those experiencing a mental health crisis has more than halved.

Combined with the Crisis Care Concordat, a programme to drive up standards in mental health crisis care across the country, the project has also led to 10,000 people across the UK being helped by a mental health nurse alongside a police officer.

Stan Sadler, service manager for mental health at Dorset HealthCare, said: "We have so far seen really encouraging results since the start of the project, which has reduced the number of people detained under section 136 in Dorset during the hours of street triage operations by almost 50 per cent.

"This is a growing project with huge potential to reduce the number further. The partnership with the University marks another step on our mission to ensure that each and every individual who experiences a mental health crisis receives the most appropriate form of care as soon as possible."

Dr Andrew Mayers, a psychologist and mental health campaigner at Bournemouth University, added: "I am honoured to be working alongside Dorset HealthCare on this crucial project.

"Unnecessarily detaining vulnerable people experiencing mental health crises will only worsen outcomes and reinforce distrust.

"The street triage offers a more positive alternative, and it is encouraging to see the growing success of the project.

"To support that we are also delivering mental health awareness training. The aim is to equip police officers and support staff with the skills needed to deal with complex situations.

"It is also important that police officers look after their own mental health. We can help then do that."

Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “This partnership with Bournemouth University will equip officers with even greater knowledge and skills to help make the right decisions when policing our towns and neighbourhoods.”