Caithness councillor says 'totally unacceptable' police having to deal with mental health calls which are responsibility of other agencies
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A CAITHNESS councillor has claimed it is "totally unacceptable" that the police are having to deal with mental health matters which should be the responsibility of other agencies.
Thurso and Northwest Caithness Highland councillor Matthew Reiss hit out after hearing that about 25 per cent of the calls received by the town's police officers relate to such issues.
The figure was revealed by Sgt Stephen Todd when he gave his monthly report on the total number of incidents dealt with by the officers in Thurso.
The police officer said 145 calls had been received with a quarter relating to mental health, concern for person and requests from external agencies.
Overall, 53 per cent of the calls were for non-criminal matters and 47 per cent for criminal issues, said Sgt Todd at Tuesday night's meeting. He explained that mental health issues can take from 10 to 15 minutes to up to six hours to deal with depending on the circumstances.
Councillor Reiss, a retired police officer, pointed out the Met in London has said it will no longer deal with mental health calls unless they are of a dire emergency. He described that stance as brave and said it would "force the government to do something about it."
The police are expected to deal with matters that should be the responsibility of other agencies, claimed councillor Reiss. "That is totally unacceptable. The percentage of calls they are dealing with on mental health issues is really high," he said.
Councillor Reiss previously called on the Scottish Government and NHS Highland to"face up to reality" on mental health issues and argued they are taking up "hours and hours" of police time which could be spent dealing with criminal matters.
Community council minute secretary, Iain Gregory, another former police officer, has also expressed concern about the situation.
Earlier this year, he said there is "huge pressure" being put on the police as they respond to calls where people are at "breaking point".
He stated that in 2022 local police attended 695 "concern for person" incidents – almost two a day.
Mr Gregory said the situation is the same all over Scotland with officers spending "a huge amount of time" on such calls. "We are expecting police officers to become the catch-all for society," he said.
The local authority area of Thurso and Northwest Caithness accounted for 379 incidents, while there were 316 in Wick and East Caithness.
The Scottish Government has said it will invest £290 million in mental health support and services.