Monday, April 28, 2008

Fulfilling the criteria

I am now happily able to type with both hands again after slicing the fingers jumping over a fence the other day! At work, not at home, I might add.

Anyhoo as promised another sad tale of the mental health system at its finest. Myself and a couple of others turned up to an assistance call from the ambulance service. We met the man in green at the bottom of the stairwell who chuckled as he saw us. He told us we'd been here before.

I understood this as we got to the front door, and saw the distinctive red circular marks across most of the door and barely there door frame, and understood that this place had been visited by someone with the 'big red door key'.

The source of all this was inside the flat. The ambulance bods had withdrawn after getting stuff thrown at them, and called us in with our highly trained negotiating skills (note- sarcasm) to try and talk to the clearly imbalanced chap inside.

Lionel, aformentioned imbalanced chap, was up and down like the proverbial yoyo. One moment he was tearful, knowing something was really wrong, wanting the voices to stop- next extremely paranoid, yelling abuse, face contorting. Some of the insults thrown at us were in all honesty quite spectacular in their originality and vulgarity. Packets of medication are all over the place. He manages to tell us he hasn't taken any of them. Which is the root cause of his now unbalanced state.

To cut a long story short, Lionel actually did want to go to the hospital, and as a courtesy to the ambulance peolpe a couple of PC's went with them in the ambulance.

Once we got the hospital, once again, things got political.

Lionel has had a drink. So, despite him being clearly not the full ticket, the mental health wing refused point blank to have anything to do with him until he was fully sober. Which meant we had to take him to A&E. Who are totally inequipped to deal with a volatile, paranoid, abusive man.

And so start the rounds of "it's not my problem". Mental health / 136 department won't have anything to do with him because "they can't assess him". We were only there as the ambulance had called us, and have not invoked any powers and so don't need to be there. The A&E have nothing to do with him as he doesn't need any "normal" medical treatment.

Meanwhile, A&E tell us we can't go as the bloke has the potential for violence. I say to them they've a quarter of my response team babysitting them whilst he has committed no offences and is not 136'd.

I hate this. I know that Lionel has the potential to kick off, and I always try to help out A&E and ambulance staff, underpaid and overburdened as they are. But now I've gone up a rank I have to say that if there's no real reason for someone to be sat somewhere, then I need them back out on patrol. If I had dozens of officers on patrol, not so much of an issue. But I have 8.

So nobody wins. I tell the hospital they have until the hour to sort out their security as I have to have my officers back out by then. If Lionel kicks off, they'll have to call us back. I'm not happy telling them this, but patient security, and their lack of security staff, is something they have to take up with their management, it isn't something we can guarantee to help them with. Of course, Lionel is free to go when he pleases as he isn't sectioned or under arrest.

I don't know what the answer is with people like Lionel. I don't advocate locking them up and going by the "out of sight, out of mind" principle, but this "not my problem" problem is just as bad. The only thing that surprises me about this story is that it hasn't happened before.

Ideally, we need a comfortable, secure suite that someone can wait safely in until sober or not under any influence. But that would cost money to build and staff. So, it doesn't happen, and every time someone who is clearly mentally ill but has been taking substances to try and cope with it, they are ignored by the system.

It is only a matter of time before Lionel, or someone just like him, becomes another statistic like the Leicestershire link above.

I don't know what the final outcome was with Lionel, whether he walked out or managed to stay long enough for the psych teams to say yay or nay. We weren't called back in any event.

Even if he was admitted, it'll only be a matter of time before he's out again by himself, forgetting or ignoring his medication.