Mental health staff are to be based in police stations and courts in England as part of a pilot scheme designed to cut reoffending and get people access to treatment.
The psychiatric nurses and other professionals will assess people who come into contact with the police and court system for mental health, substance misuse and learning disability support needs. They will also offer advice to police officers in cases involving mental health.
Ten areas will trial the pilot scheme. If an evaluation finds the approach is successful, it will be extended across the country by 2017, the Department of Health said.
Norman Lamb, the care services minister, said people with mental health issues who enter the criminal justice system are too often only diagnosed when they reach prison.
“We want to help them get the right support and treatment as early as possible. Diverting the individual away from offending and helping to reduce the risk of more victims suffering due to further offences benefits everyone,” said Lamb.
Mental health campaigners welcomed the move and said that effective liason and diversion teams could secure the right support for those who need it.
“Well functioning liaison and diversion services can prevent people with mental health problems from being imprisoned and reduce the likelihood of further offending by putting better support plans in place for people with complex needs,” said Sean Duggan, chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health.
The ten areas piloting the scheme:
- Avon and Wiltshire
- South Essex
- Sunderland and Middlesbrough