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Sussex spends 11,000 hours on mental health in three months

The figure has been called “conservative” by the force’s DCC.

In Q3 of last year, around 11,000 officer hours were spent dealing with people in mental health crises.

The figure was described as probably a “vastly underestimated number” by DCC Dave McLaren given the difficulty in getting accurate figures as mental health cuts through a lot of incidents officers deal with.

DCC McLaren gave an extreme example of a case from last year where someone who was detained under s.136 resulted in 61 different officer deployments, over 300 hours, across a four day period to get that person “the right care and support that they needed”.

He added that Sussex are making improvements to how they record figures on this in order to get a more accurate understanding.

The force saw 851 detentions under s.136 last year – 60% of which ended up with the individual being admitted to hospital.

That figure had increased from 53% the year before, and 47% the year before that.

For DCC McLaren: “It shows we are using that power more appropriately and our ability to identify mental health issues in crisis when we see it is improving.”

Since October last year, the force has had three mental health liaison officers and one mental health lead – all police staff.

It’s something DCC McLaren has said has made a “massive difference”.

He said it has helped with engagement with health partners and developed understanding over the appropriate use of s.136.

When asked however how far the police had come with improving this issue, he said: “I’ve been in policing for 27 years and this is an issue – something that we could not fix, and the challenge is that it’s not within our gift to fix it- its other agencies that need to step up and I know they also have their own challenges

“In Sussex we are having really promising conversations around what the art of the possible is and to make [the most of] the opportunities that present themselves in the next couple of months in terms of different ways of working but that’s still to come to fruition.”

CC Jo Shiner added: “It’s really complex - we are dealing with some of the most vulnerable members of our society some of whom often pose a significant danger to other members of the public so policing can’t just walk away from this.

“It would be easy to say just leave them at hospital and move away but as soon as they leave that hospital we end up deploying more officers looking for them than we actually do if we stayed with them at hospital.”

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