DYFED-Powys Police deals with around 200 mental health incidents every week, its Chief Constable has told members of the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel.
Mark Collins said there is continued demand on the force, which is seen as the ’24/7 default service’ for people suffering with mental health, but welcomed collaboration with Hywel Dda University Health Board to tackle the problem and ensure people are properly cared for.
The Chief Constable is the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Mental Health and Policing, and addressed the Panel after it asked for assurance that adequate priority is being given to the issue as part of the Force’s annual Police and Crime Plan.
Within the plan, the Commissioner has committed to improving understanding of mental health demands by working in partnership with other services and with people who have experience of mental ill health, and advocating a reasonable and proportionate response by front-line staff when dealing with people experiencing mental ill health.
He has also committed to ensuring that people suffering from mental ill health are treated in a health facility and not detained in custody.
Mr Collins gave the Panel an outline of the national picture which raises concerns about the level of police involvement in responding to mental health problems, saying that the police service is doing a good job in difficult circumstances.
“The main issue is the continuing demand on the force,” he said. “We have 50-60 calls per day relating to mental health in Dyfed Powys. Our triage team deal with over 200 incidents a week. Unfortunately, the police is a 24/7 default service.
“We’ve been able to reduce priority calls because we are carrying out welfare checks, but collaboration is the most important way forward.
“I welcome the latest announcements from Hywel Dda University Health Board regarding community care cafes in the Dyfed Powys area, with provision in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion. For me, it’s that step beyond triage.”
The Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel has identified mental health as one of the key themes it will scrutinise during the year.
Independent Panel member Helen Thomas said she welcomed the focus that mental health is receiving.
She said: “I would like to thank the Commissioner and Chief Constable for this report. The facts you have given us are worrying. The demand on the police service cannot be under estimated. The focus needs to be on the police service and the huge demands on it.
“Not to be using cells is a huge advance but of course you have to have an alternative suitable accommodation and that’s a challenge. I look forward to hearing the improvements in the future.”
The Police and Crime Commissioner’s full report on Mental Health and Policing in Dyfed Powys, can be found as part of the agenda papers for the July 2019 meeting of the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel.
Find this, along with information about the Panel, its members, future meeting dates and more, at www.dppoliceandcrimepanel.