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Psychiatric help on hand at court and police station

Psychiatric help on hand: The Dame Lois Browne Evans building, the home of the Magistrates' Courts (File photograph)

A psychiatric nurse has been deployed to Magistrates’ Court and Hamilton Police Station to help people with mental health problems.

Geraldine Smith, a retired nurse, has been signed up for the role in a pilot programme organised by the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute, Magistrates’ Court, court services and police.

Preston Swan, the acting chief operating officer at MWI, said the post was created to help make the hospital “more responsive to community needs and meet people in the settings where they need assistance”.

Mr Swan said: “Attending court and interacting with police can pose unique challenges for some people with mental illness.

“There are specific methods that can be used to effectively communicate with such persons, but it is complex as the methods vary based on the person’s particular challenge or diagnosis.

“Psychiatric professionals are best qualified to recognise this and interact appropriately.

“We are pleased to provide this service in the Magistrates’ Court and at the police station.”

Ms Smith took up her new job as Liaison and Diversion Officer in February.

Mr Swan said: “The LDO provides psychiatric support to persons with mental health challenges.

“The LDO also advises authorities where a diversion from the justice system for mental health treatment is appropriate.”

He added Ms Smith had spoken to more than 330 people who asked for help since she started in the role.

Mr Swan said 38 per cent -129 people – were already known to MWI and 77 people – 23 per cent – were current patients.

He added not everyone took advantage of the service and six per cent – 21 people – declined additional mental health support from MWI or the LDO.

Senior magistrate Juan Wolffe said alternative courts – such as the Mental Health Treatment Court and the DUI Court – had been set up to foster “therapeutic forms of jurisprudence” and to help people tackle their problems rather than lock them up.

Mr Wolffe added: “The services of the LDO has taken these objectives a monumental step further by providing immediate and direct assistance and intervention to individuals who appear in the Magistrates’ Court with mental or physical challenges.

“Since the project began, the assigned LDO has been worth her weight in gold by triaging the complex and sensitive issues of individuals and thereby providing magistrates with crucial information and recommendations which ultimately assists magistrates in arriving at a resolution which is beneficial to all parties involved in the proceedings.”

Chief Inspector Alex Rollin said: “As police, we interact directly with all sectors of our community.”

He added: “It has become increasingly challenging for us to manage situations involving some of those who have mental illness. “

Mr Rollin added: “We have already experienced the benefits of having the Liaison and Diversion Officer and look forward to the continued partnership.”

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Published September 22, 2021 at 7:47 am (Updated September 22, 2021 at 7:47 am)

Psychiatric help on hand at court and police station

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