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People with mental health problems kept in police cells due to lack of hospital beds

Police cells were used to detain suicidal people and those suffering from psychosis more than once a week over the last year due to a lack of hospital spaces.

Figures released today reveal there were 75 occasions when people with mental health problems were placed in cells.

The force currently uses custody cells as a place of safety until the relevant agency takes over their care.

Video: Police cells are still used as 'safe spaces'

It’s prompted renewed calls by mental health charity Mind for a new law, which will stop under 18s being taken to police stations, extended to adults too.

Inspector Wayne Goodwin, force mental health liaison officer, said: “Around a third of our officers’ time is now taken up by dealing with mental health cases.

“Cells are not appropriate for anyone and we know that it can add to the trauma of the crisis and potentially delay the person’s recovery.

“Our officers and staff aren’t experts in dealing with mental health and although we will do our best, they can only receive the proper care they need in a mental health setting.”

Special advisors are now working in the force's control room
Special advisors are now working in the force's control room

The problem is being put down to cuts to support services in Kent and increased demand as more people feel able to speak out about issues.

Sarah Holmes-Smith, acute service line director from Kent and Medway NHS & Social Care Partnership Trust, added: “We are working really closely with the police both on operational day-to-day issues but also on a more strategic level.”

Natalie Garner, a student from Eldon Street in Chatham, was taken into custody when she became ill around three years ago.

The pregnant 25-year-old was stopped by officers after members of the public raised concerns about her around three years ago.

She was taken to a police cell and kept there for around 24 hours before being taken for specialist care.

She said: “I felt like a criminal. I was taken into a cell, I didn’t understand the process of having my phone taken away, having my belt taken and being left in a confined space.

“It isn’t the right place for people with a mental disorder, there needs to be more funds made available and custom-made suites. The facility in Medway has been closed and patients now have to travel either to Canterbury or Maidstone."

Last month, the government announced £59,000 towards creating safe places for patients in Kent. The cash will also be spent on providing a street triage vehicle to help police deal with people suffering with mental health problems.

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