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Experiencing mental ill health adds a layer of complexity for individuals in touch with the justice system and for those responsible for working in the justice service with these individuals, such as frontline police officers.
In England and Wales, there are three commonly used but not necessarily commonly designed or operated, mental health interventions associated with policing, Liaison and Diversion, Street Triage and specialist staff embedded in Police Contact Control Rooms. A fourth US designed model, Crisis Intervention Teams (CITs), is now attracting some interest in England and Wales, and these four are to be considered in this review. A fifth intervention, Mental Health Courts, was trialed but has now been abandoned in England and Wales and so has been excluded, but remains in use elsewhere.
In recent years, there has been an increase in the level of investment related to these intervention options. This has largely been without an evidence base being available to aid design, structure, and consistency of approach. The review will address this gap and provide a systematic review of each of these options. This will provide a baseline of research evidence for those who commission and provide services for individuals experiencing mental ill health and who are in contact with the justice system.
Twenty-nine relevant databases and sources have been selected which will be systematically searched to locate relevant studies. These studies have to meet the set inclusion criteria which require them to report an objective outcome measure(s) in respect of offending or mental health outcomes and to have an experimental or quasi-experimental design including a comparator group(s) or a pre/post comparison. The review will exclude PhD theses, papers in non-English languages and papers published prior to 1980.
Keywords have been collected through canvassing experts’ opinion, literature review, controlled vocabulary and reviewing the results of a primary scoping review carried out to aid the development of the PICO, composed of Population/Participants, Intervention/Indicator, Comparator/Control, and Outcomes. For the proposed review, the key elements of the PICO are the following: persons with mental health problems, symptoms or diagnoses who come into contact with the police; interventions involving partnership working between police and mental health nurses and related professionals to divert those with mental health problems away from criminal justice processes; comparisons with control groups or areas where such interventions have not been introduced; and outcomes concerning criminal justice and health outcomes.
The results of the searches will be screened using the set criteria and the selected papers reviewed and analysed to allow findings regarding these interventions to be reported.
The objectives of the review are firstly to identify and report research on the relevant interventions, nationally and internationally and then secondly to consider, when possible, which interventions or aspects of those interventions are effective. This is judged with regard to changes in mental health status or service use and future offending behaviour.
The approaches to be considered have gained a good deal of support and funding over recent years, and this review will provide a systematic review of the underpinning research evidence to inform future commissioning, service design and investment decisions.