MENTAL health clinicians and police have launched a rehabilitation initiative in a bid to tackle a high number of offenders suffering from a mental health crisis.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) has formed a new triage service at North Wales Police’s communications centre in St Asaph to review police incidents in which mental health is a factor and provide expert advice directly to officers.

North Wales Police has a high number of detentions under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act compared to similar sized forces, however only a small percentage of these detentions result in patients being formally admitted to hospital under the act.

The new team is comprised of six BCUHB practitioners from various backgrounds in mental health care. It will work with police at custody suites and Magistrate’s Courts to improve patient outcomes for those within the criminal justice system while suffering with mental health issues. The team will not attend incidents that deal directly with the public.

Inspector Jason Davies said the initiative “saves time and money” for the emergency services while improving offender outcomes.

“We often have little choice but to detain the person until health treatment can be provided,” he said. “The idea of the triage is to make sure officers are fully informed when having to make such difficult decisions, and that the person receives the appropriate care.

“A partnership between the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and North Wales Police provides the most appropriate service to people with issues relating to their mental health at the earliest opportunity – and saves time and money for the police, ambulance and health services.”

The BCUHB team will provide a point of contact for officers dealing with individuals in mental health crisis and makes recommendations on patient care, liaises with mental health units on behalf of officers and makes referrals to other services. The final decision on use of a Section 136 detention order will remain with officers.

Lesley Singleton, BCUHB’s director of partnerships for mental health, said: “This partnership work with North Wales Police will help us to support people experiencing a mental health crisis at the earliest possible opportunity.

“We are determined to shift the focus of our care to early intervention and prevention, so people receive the right support, in the right place, at the right time.

“Working with our partners, like North Wales Police, is an important part of the way we’re transforming mental health care across North Wales and improving outcomes for people experiencing a mental health crisis.”