Published: 14:24, 12 April 2017
Kent’s police and crime commissioner Matthew Scott has reassured mental health campaigner Tracy Carr that changes to police powers should not affect patients in Deal.
The former Mayoress, who runs support groups and a new wellbeing cafe for people who suffer with mental illness, met Mr Scott at a meeting in The Royal Hotel.
She emailed the Conservative politician in January asking for a meeting when she heard about the imminent changes Section 136 of the Mental Health Act.
Otherwise known as ‘sectioning’, the police can use section 136 to take unstable patients to a place of safety when in a public place.
Officers will soon only be allowed to use the section in exceptional circumstances. It is part of a reform to reduce the amount of time police dedicate to mental health call outs and boost the number of patrols on the streets.
Mrs Carr described the one-hour meeting as reassuring and productive.
She said: “We rely on the police to help us when people are in crisis so I was concerned about how this change would affect us.
“If we cannot get anyone out from the crisis team, we phone the police and they’re always there.
“I also wanted to thank him for everything the police do.”
She added: “He reassured me. The police will still do the same job but they’ll only keep people in for 24 hours now instead of 72 meaning the mental health services are going to have to do their job.”
In a statement to the Mercury, Mr Scott has commended Mrs Carr’s support group, Talk It Out.
He said: “Groups like Talk It Out are doing so much good work to reduce demand on police time.
“Mental health is an issue which is deeply important to me. A third of Kent Police time is currently spent dealing with cases involving mental health and that is not sustainable.
“My aim is that, by revolutionising the way the police deals with mental health, we can see more of those officers spending more time on visible patrol in towns like Deal instead.
“In 2015/16, 75 adults in mental health crisis were taken to a police cell in Kent and each of those detentions has an impact on local resources.
“That’s not what I want to see, and that’s not the best thing for those vulnerable individuals either – what they need is to be somewhere where they can get the right support from the right person.
“Later this year new legislation will come into force which means that adults in a mental health crisis can only be taken to a police cell as a place of safety in exceptional circumstances.
“I’m pleased that, in preparation for that very important change, Kent Police and the NHS have agreed a new Mental Health Strategy which outlines ways they can work together to support people in crisis and ensure there are adequate places of safety for vulnerable people available away from police custody.”
The Royal Hotel has been thanked for providing a meeting room for free.