Sunderland is leading the way in protecting mentally ill people from harming themselves and others, says a senior minister.
Sarah Newton, Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism, visited the new Hopewood Park site in Ryhope.
This part of the country is doing extremely well and Hopewood Park is really an exemplar of fantastic mental health services.
The Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust site includes a section 136 suite, a specialist unit to which people who have been arrested under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act can be taken.
The section allows police to take people into custody if it is believed they pose a risk to themselves and others.
The trust has been working closely with Northumbria Police to improve the emergency care of people with mental health problems.
Sarah Newton has been in the North East to see the progress that has been made for herself.
“The reason I have come is to met the people on the front line, the police, the NHS, local authorities and volunteers,” she said.
The development of specialist section 136 suites was revolutionising the way people suffering from a mental health crisis were dealt with, and the North East was leading the way: “In the past, they would have been taken to a police station, which is not the right place to treat them,” said Mrs Newton.
“What they need is to be taken somewhere health professionals are on hand to attend to their needs.
“The Government is really committed to make sure there are alternative, safe, community-based places for officers to take people.
“This part of the country is doing extremely well and Hopewood Park is really an exemplar of fantastic mental health services. The work they have piloted in working with the police in a very integrated way means they do have a very safe place to bring people.”
That co-operation extends to mental health nurses from the trust going out with officers to assess people it is believed may need to be detained under Section 136.
“Too many people in the past have been treated as though the are criminals when they have not done anything wrong, it is just that they have had a crisis in their mental health” said Mrs Newton.
“They need to be treated, rather than put into a police cell.”
The Government has made £15million available to health trusts to improve provision of mental health places of safety.
The first wave of bids, totalling £6.1million, has been awarded to 15 trusts and organisations covering 11 police force areas.
Northumberland, Tyne and Wear missed out, but Mrs Newton has urged the trust to apply for the next round of funding, which opened this week.