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03 Aug 2015

Focusing on mental health: University of York joins forces with North Yorkshire Police

The University of York has secured funding of £1 million to collaborate with North Yorkshire Police on new approaches to dealing with mental health problems.

Part of the £10 million Police Knowledge Fund launched to encourage collaboration between academia and police forces, York is one of 14 successful UK bids. Each collaboration aims to increase evidence-based knowledge, skills and problem solving approaches within policing.

Funded by The College of Policing, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Home Office, Co-Production of Policing Evidence, Research and Training: Focus Mental Health will develop mechanisms to change the practice and culture surrounding recording and working with people with mental health problems.

Led by Professor Martin Smith in York’s Department of Politics, the project will enable frontline staff in North Yorkshire Police to better identify both victims and offenders who would benefit from accessing mental health services. Improving internal processes and multi-agency agreements, the project will develop a training programme to enable access to services at the right time and reduce mental health-related repeat incidents.

Project activities will include: a series of ‘Research Cafés’ for managers and service providers to discuss their experiences in managing mental health problems and what they see as challenges, opportunities and potential solutions; a systematic review of literature on policing and mental health; evaluations of mental health triage, recording of mental health data and self-harm; and working with partner institutions to develop joined-up mechanisms for dealing with mental health problems.

Following this, the project will launch national level workshops to ensure best practice is shared across the UK, and the University of York will provide intensive training for police and health practitioners, including the development of a tailored part-time Master’s programme.

Professor Smith said: “According to the mental health charity Mind, one in four will experience a mental health issue in any year, and one in six will have a mental health condition at any one time. Over half of deaths following police contact involve people with a mental health issue, and people with mental health problems are up to ten times more likely to become victims of crime than the general population.

“Mental health involves considerable resources for both the police and other agencies, so we are delighted to collaborate with North Yorkshire Police and a number of Councils to address these important issues. We recognise that our goal of creating better outcomes in the area of mental health requires a culture change that will start by better fitting approaches to the realities of those who work on the ground.”

Tim Madgwick, North Yorkshire Police’s Deputy Chief Constable, said: “The funding is extremely welcome news and will pave the way to provide the police service with a greater understanding of the issues faced by people with mental health problems, as well as helping to prevent their contact with the emergency services in the first place.

“We are committed to protecting vulnerable people as outlined in the Police and Crime Plan, and key to this is improving care for mentally vulnerable people. We will be closely involved in designing and implementing the research. The expectations from the police are clear: a commitment to improving effectiveness in dealing with issues of mental health. This requires better training of police officers which this collaboration will achieve. Systematic knowledge provided through research will also enable development of much better working practice around mental health through a better understanding of relationships between the police and other agencies.

“A high percentage of incidents dealt with by the police are mental health related. The police are not mental health experts, nor can we provide the appropriate service for people who are often at their most vulnerable and need professional health care and support . We have already made great progress over recent years in supporting people with mental ill health through the provision of street triage services and the introduction of four Health-Based Places of Safety for people detained by the police because of a mental health crisis.

“We have also developed a strong working relationship with the University of York which has been forged in collaborations undertaken in researching and evaluating the Mental Health “Street” Triage work. We now look forward to developing our work with the university and seeing the outcome of this important area of work.”

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, said:“I want policing and crime reduction to have the same relentless focus on evidence as in our medical and legal professions – where knowledge and research are the foundation of professional practice.

“I am delighted that the 14 successful bids will see police forces collaborating with each other and world-class universities to build that evidence base and ensure that policing is based on a thorough understanding of crime and best practice.”

David Sweeney, HEFCE’s Director of Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange, said: “The 14 bids awarded funding will provide high-quality teaching and research activity, and add to the evidence and knowledge base to support current national priorities in policing and crime reduction.”

Further academics involved in the University of York project include: Dr Martin Webber, Director of the International Centre for Mental Health Social Research in the Department of Social Policy & Social Work, Professor Jill MacBryde, The York Management School, Dr Tracey Bywater and Jonathan Haslam, the Institute for Effective Education, Professor David Torgerson, Professor Catherine Hewitt and Dr Catriona McDaid, the York Trials Unit, and the Mental Health and Addictions Research Group in the Department of Health Sciences.

The University of York will collaborate with North Yorkshire Police, City of York Council, Selby District Council, North Yorkshire County Council, Public Health in North Yorkshire, North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Services, North Yorkshire & York Forum, Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and York Teaching Hospital.

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