People facing a mental health crisis could soon have access to support 24 hours a day through a new crisis care service set to launch next year.
The new service will give residents across mid and south Essex the same urgent access to mental health services as they are able to get for physical health services, including a dedicated emergency phone line, home treatment and 24/7 support.
It is part of an effort to pull pressure off accident and emergency departments which have seen a growing number of attendances due to limited access to mental health services.
Trevor Harp, who oversees healthcare in Southend, said: “I think this is an essential service. The plan is for this to be introduced in April next year but I would like to see it brought in even sooner if that is possible as there is definitely a need for it.
“When someone presents at A&E in crisis that puts pressure on the department, which will then need to find a consultant or senior psychiatrist who can give support to that person. Having a crisis team working in the community will help relieve those pressures.”
The alternative to attending hospitals will be ‘crisis cafes’ located in Thurrock, Southend and Chelmsford and available to people across the region, including Basildon, Castlepoint and Brentwood.
The idea behind these cafes according to papers released by Thurrock Council, will be to provide “flexible, practical and emotional support providing a calm and safe place for people in a mental health crisis”.
There will be the introduction of a dedicated 111 emergency line where people with poor mental health will have their needs assessed over the phone before being referred to critical support teams or community support services.
Cllr Harp added: “A lot of families find that the ultimate port of call is 999 and the police service so this will also take pressure off of those services by diverting them away from 999 and over to a dedicated mental health crisis team.
“In Southend we would very much welcome this because we do have people who are in crisis, every town does, but there is a pressure here in Southend for these services.”
Thurrock councillor Victoria Holloway, who chairs the Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said: “I think this is one of the most important things we are currently working on.
“Having that team in place will have a phenomenal impact on people that need them. I can’t impress enough how important it is. It will make a demonstrable difference and it is long over due.”
She added that it is time mental health was given the same level of importance as physical health.