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Mental-health emergencies: New option of support for the police

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POLICE officers are now able to directly refer people in crisis to Jersey’s first mental-health drop-in centre as part of an agreement that is hoped could take the pressure off the force and the Emergency Department.

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In its first week of operation, the Listening Lounge in Charles Street supported 40 people – from those in their 20s to people in their 80s.

Experts at the government-funded facility, which opened on 4 November, say they have been working on a ‘plan’ with the States police about how both agencies can work together to best provide for Islanders in crisis.

The JEP witnessed first hand last month the impact that dealing with daily mental-health incidents has on the police’s already-stretched resources. During one incident witnessed by a reporter, an officer spent several hours with a man who had called the police saying he wanted to take his own life. It was the second time in as many days that officers had helped the man.

As that incident was unfolding, the police responded to five other live mental-health-related cases and the force’s medical examiner and other specialist mental-health nurses were tied up at other cases.

New figures released this week show that the police have responded to 390 specific mental-health incidents – an average of almost nine a week so far this year. Figures also show that on average it takes almost three hours of officers’ time per incident.

Lucy Nicolaou, head of services for LINC, which runs the Listening Lounge, said the police would now have the option to bring low-risk people in crisis straight to the servce.

She said in a statement: ‘Our plan with the States of Jersey Police is to work collaboratively to provide an alternative when officers are seeing Islanders with mental-health needs. Currently, people experiencing crisis are supported to A&E to access an assessment and, if required, further intervention. However, we know that in the majority of these cases immediate care, such as admittance to inpatient services, is not required.

‘If appropriate to do so, after ensuring that the risk is low for the individual and those working and attending the service, SOJP will now have the option to bring people to the Listening Lounge in the first instance, where we can provide some initial support and assessment to help decide if A&E attendance is necessary.

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‘We are keen to see what impact this has on the figures and trends that we see currently.’

Of the 40 people who attended the Listening Lounge in its first week, 14 had ‘self-referred’ for counselling. A slightly higher proportion of those who have attended have been men and a small group of people with enduring mental-health needs had accessed the service daily following their initial visit.

The Listening Lounge is open daily from 10am to 10pm. Bookable counselling sessions will be available three days a week from 4pm and 9pm.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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