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Dundee’s mental health crisis centre may not be ready until March 2022

Better mental health support is considered a priority among Scots
Better mental health support is considered a priority among Scots

A new centre in Dundee providing 24/7 support for anyone struggling with a mental health issue may not be ready until March next year.

The South Ward Road facility, often described as a mental health crisis centre, needs to be adapted before it can welcome users.

A third-sector organisation will also need to be selected to run it.

Timescale for mental health centre has ‘slipped’

The city centre location, which is a former Hillcrest Housing building, was confirmed by health and social care officials just last week.

The idea for the centre was first mooted more than three years ago and families who have lost loved ones to suicide have hailed the identification of a building as a major milestone.

Speaking at a meeting on Wednesday, Arlene Mitchell from Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership’s Integration Joint Board said: “We did originally hope that the building could be adapted before the end of the calendar year.

A dedicated mental health crisis centre will open by March 2022, officials say

“It’s looking more likely that it will be by the end of the financial year, so that slips that by three months.

“However, the parallel with that is the awarding of the DBI [Distress Brief Intervention] contract, which will happen in September.”

Emotional distress response

DBI will target support at people experiencing emotional distress, rather than those going through a mental health crisis.

The model consists of two parts, with the first seeing frontline health, police, paramedic and primary care staff assist any individual.

They will then ask the person if they would like further support and, if they agree, they are referred to the DBI service with a promise of contact within the next 24 hours to commence support.

It is different to the mental health crisis centre, which is officially named the ‘always open’ Community Wellbeing Centre (CWC).

Centre to provide ‘compassionate’ help

The centre is a physical facility which will provide an “immediate and compassionate” response to anyone who considers themselves to be in need of immediate support.

It can be down to a deterioration in a recognised mental health condition, or high levels of emotional distress arising from problematic life events and circumstances.

It will coordinate with all mental health services and link up with the DBI staff.

Ms Mitchell has stressed the DBI model means staff that come on board in the next few weeks will be able to support people “immediately” before the centre opens.

There are also existing facilities in the city which are available to people seeking help now.

John Alexander

Dundee City Council leader John Alexander says the aim has always been to get the centre up and running as soon as possible and “nothing has changed” in that regard.

He said: “Other aspects of the mental health response will be up and running in advance of the building being ready.

“When building works are required, including removing walls and creating new access points — we need to rely on the experience and judgement of those in the trades that know best.

“It might take slightly longer than politicians had hoped but it’s on it’s way to delivery and that’s what matters.”

Paramedics responding to mental health 999 calls

Meanwhile, an emergency vehicle dedicated exclusively to responding to people experiencing a mental health issue has been launched in Dundee.

The service currently has two specialist paramedics responding to relevant 999 calls at weekends using the vehicle.

A further four part-time mental health nurses will also come on board and attend call-outs in the coming weeks.

Mental health nurses are still to be hired to travel in the vehicles when needed but could begin work in the next few weeks.

Many patients are taken to A&E during times of crisis.

It’s hoped the car will prevent some people being taken to A&E, which is considered an inappropriate environment for someone in a mental health crisis or suffering severe emotional distress.

Dundee IJB chief officer Vicky Irons says early outcomes indicate that most people have been successfully helped in “their own home environment” without the need for more specialist mental health assistance or being taken to A&E.

Whatever you’re going through, you can call Samaritans free any time on 116 123 or email: jo@samaritans.org or visit their website to find details of your nearest branch.

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