Two vital services that reduce demand on emergency services by helping people experiencing mental distress have been saved.
The Pathways model, developed and delivered by Together for Mental Wellbeing, offers free, personalised, one-to-one support to individuals experiencing mental distress who may repeatedly make contact with emergency services, or are at risk of entering the criminal justice system.
The two services were facing imminent closure earlier this year as their time limited funding came to an end. However, both have now been saved by generous funding contributions from a range of agencies who have recognised the value of the model.
Pathways workers give people a thorough assessment of a person’s needs, and provide individuals with practical support to manage their mental wellbeing and to access community resources, from employment and training, to housing, mental health and substance misuse services. The team also support people to identify, understand and alter any behaviours that are perpetuating their mental distress. They work with individuals to develop tools that enable them to sustain these changes, for example, emotional awareness, assertiveness, negotiation and problem-solving skills. The teams support individuals with a range of mental health support needs, including people who have complex needs, such as substance misuse issues or a history of offending. There is a key focus is on strengthening their informal support networks and relationships.
In Rotherham, Pathways works exclusively with young people aged 16-24. The service was originally one of six that formed part of the T2A Alliance’s three-year national Transition to Adulthood pathway programme to deliver interventions to young adults involved with the criminal justice system.
Young adults that are referred to Pathways are either at risk of offending, or have already offended. They may also be in mental health crisis, be displaying harmful sexual behaviour (HSB) and they may have experienced Child Sexual Exploitation. It was vital that Pathways continue so that these young adults with complex needs (including homelessness, learning disabilities, substance misuse) are able to access the right support at the right time. By working closely with South Yorkshire Police, Pathways has successfully managed to reduce the number of young people coming into contact with the police by 44%.
In 2016, Rotherham Pathways won a Positive Practice in Mental Health award for innovation in child and young people’s mental health, beating competition from large NHS and public sector providers. As the pilot began drawing to a close; Together worked alongside these partners to find funding to help the service continue.
The service has been running in York for two years, and has established strong working relationships with agencies across the region. North Yorkshire Police, who have been central to the project since its inception, work particularly closely with Pathways to ensure the best support for individuals who are referred.
As the project enters its third year, there will be a renewed focus on working with colleagues across different sectors to create a support system that works for those experiencing multiple disadvantages in York. This stream of work will be supported by Lankelly Chase Foundation, which has funded York Pathways since its launch in 2015. Pathways will deliver a series of workshops and forums to bring service users, frontline staff, senior managers and commissioners together to understand and unpick the challenges the city faces. The team will also be working alongside a consultant to identify and maximise partnerships across York in terms of how services can collectively improve their response to people with multiple and complex needs and how that work is funded.
James, who was supported by Rotherham Pathways says:
“I think my first meeting with Alison from Pathways lasted three minutes before I said I was too tired and went back to bed. The meetings got longer but it was all at my pace, something which worked around me and not to a strict deadline or a time scale. The service mainly worked because of that. I was treated as an individual with my own needs, and we were able to focus on the key issues affecting my life at the time. Alison showed me that this wasn’t the way things would stay for the rest of my life. I started feeling like I could improve, and I did. Now looking back on it, without the Pathways project’s intervention, I’d likely be in prison at this current moment, or worse.”
Inspector Bill Scott, North Yorkshire Police’s lead for mental health, said:
“A significant proportion of calls to police and other emergency services come from people who are experiencing mental health issues. This is particularly true outside of normal working hours, where other services may not be available. Whilst the police will always try to help keep people safe, we aren’t mental health experts and often the issues are deep-seated and cannot be resolved by us alone. In many cases, the complexity of those issues means that mainstream services do not feel able to offer the help that’s needed. That unmet need can manifest itself through extreme distress.
“The Together York Pathways project has shown that a small team of dedicated professionals can work with our most vulnerable people to get the help they need, and to change their lives for the long-term. By doing so, it improves – and probably saves – lives, as well as reducing inappropriate demand on already stretched emergency services.
“It’s excellent news that the project has been extended and I’m keen to make sure that we secure a sustainable funding model to help keep people safe in the years to come.”
Habiba Nabatu, Programme Manager at Lankelly Chase says:
“Lankelly Chase is delighted to be part of York Pathways. We have found that our partners in York have the desire to radically rethink how we collectively do things for people experiencing mental distress and in frequent contact with emergency services. We are especially excited to see collective learning as central to this work and we look forward to working together.”
Liz Felton, CEO of Together for Mental Wellbeing says:
‘We’re delighted that our Pathways teams are able to continue their vital work and keep helping people in both Rotherham and York. We really believe in this model and our funding partnerships show that agencies across the voluntary, healthcare and criminal justice sectors see its enormous value too. By continuing to work closely together we can help more people access the support they need, whilst also alleviating pressure on the town’s primary care and emergency services.’