A site for a 24-hour mental health crisis centre in Dundee should be identified “within a month or so”, according to the leader of the city council.
The Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership is setting up a Community Wellbeing Hub (CWH), often referred to as a crisis centre, which will operate 24/7 and be led by voluntary sector partners.
City mental health campaigners believe a 24-hour centre – where a person in a mental health crisis can go for help without a medical referral – could save lives.
They have been calling for such a service for years but now it seems it could finally arrive.
‘Unanimous support for service’
Dundee City Council leader John Alexander said work is ongoing to secure a location for the centre.
“Obviously you know that there’s unanimous public and I think political support for the creation of these centres,” he said.
“We’ve seen the details of what’s been agreed, previously at the local Integrated Joint Board (IJB) meeting, when it was agreed to take forward these proposals.
“I met with officers quite recently to receive an update on that.
“Once we’ve got a specific location, a specific building identified, then the momentum will really build and quite quickly thereafter.
“I know there are discussions actively taking place right now as we speak, about a couple of different locations.
“Those buildings aren’t necessarily in our gift or our ownership, so again a level of negotiation with the owners of those various sites [is needed].
“But things are moving in the background, and I think I can understand why sometimes it’s frustrating in the public realm to look at this issue, knowing how serious it is, in terms of the challenges of mental health, across not only the city but nationwide, and perhaps not see the progress.
“But, I think that’s because people are working so hard in the background in order to deliver it.
‘Hopefully operational by end of the year’
“The timescales remain as they were, we hope to have things up and running in some way, shape or form by the end of the year.
“I would hope that we’ve got sites located within the window of a month or so, and finalised, I would hope.
“I’ve not been involved in the process of identifying sites, so I couldn’t give you that kind of specific detail on the site locations.
City centre possible location for service
“I know that there were a number of considerations, so one of them was around accessibility.
“Wherever you put it, you want to know that it’s accessible for the vast majority of people.
“I think, inevitably, one of the considerations will be around the city centre, but that doesn’t mean exclusively – there might be other sites that make sense.
“But, the city centre is certainly in the mix.”
Phil Welsh, whose son Lee committed suicide in 2017, said the city centre “really has to be” the location for the unit.
Phil, along with Lee’s mother, Lesley Nicoll, have campaigned for a 24-hour centre since Lee’s death.
Lee, a dad to a young daughter, had battled mental health issues for almost a decade.
Phil and Lesley use the slogan and website ‘Not in Vain for Lee’ to promote their cause.
— Phil Welsh (@philwelshdundee) October 22, 2020
Phil said: “I would assume the city centre is where it really has to be.
“It would be the most appropriate location.
“All the bus routes lead there, and people know their way about the city centre.”
Phil said while it was positive to hear progress was being made and plans are still on track, he said from the beginning of discussions he had been adamant the partners involved “took their time and got it right” rather than rushing and not putting together a suitable centre.
Edinburgh setting ‘welcoming’
He also mentioned the Edinburgh Crisis Centre and hoped Dundee could follow suit with the type of building being used.
“In Edinburgh, they’ve bought an Edwardian townhouse, and it has been converted into a crisis centre,” said Phil.
“It has a self-contained garden, it’s not clinical looking, but a homely environment.
“It’s more welcoming and doesn’t look like a hospital, so I think people would find it easier to access. It would be great if we got something like that in Dundee.”
One location confirmed in city centre
Councillor Ken Lynn, chairman of the Integration Joint Board said: “We have been considering a number of potential sites for a Community Wellbeing Hub that will operate 24/7.
“One of the current locations that is being considered is within the city centre.
“This new hub will open as soon as possible and a progress report will be brought to the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership Integration Joint Board in August.
“In the meantime, I would urge anyone struggling with their mental health to reach out and get support.
“Dundee has a number of existing places offering mental health support and they remain open to help.”