Extra support for people who have experienced mental health crisis

People in Somerset who have experienced a mental health crisis are now getting additional support when they are medically fit to leave hospital.

Two new “step-down” houses have opened their doors to provide a safe place for people who are ready to leave a mental health ward but would benefit from that extra support before they return home.

The houses, which are located in Yeovil and Wells, offer free short-term housing and support to people across Somerset who are ready to start living more independently.

It’s part of a joint approach by Somerset NHS Foundation Trust and Somerset County Council to help relieve pressure on the county’s mental health inpatient wards during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The houses will also be used in the near future to help people in the community who could benefit from additional support to avoid an admission to a mental health ward.

The step-down houses are run by care provider Enable Support Services, whose specialist mental health support workers will help people to meet their short-term goals and developing ways to manage their mental health within a safe and comfortable setting.

And mental health professionals from Somerset NHS Foundation Trust’s home treatment team and community mental health service will undertake weekly reviews of people and organise medication, along with psychological and medical intervention where needed.

Other Somerset agencies and individuals involved in the step-down houses, include Magna Housing, Rethink Mental Illness, Community Council for Somerset, community agents and artists, as well as redeployed Somerset County Council staff who painted and decorated the houses.

Councillor David Huxtable, County Council Cabinet member for Adult Social Care, said: “This is a great achievement and will help those who need that extra help and support at a very difficult time in their lives. I would like to thank everyone involved who worked together to make this happen in these unprecedented times.”

Tim Young, Somerset NHS Foundation Trust’s head of adult mental health inpatient units and urgent care, said: “I am incredibly proud to be involved in the development of this new way of helping people who have or are experiencing a mental health crisis.

“The aim is for people to have a short stay in a step-down house, ideally for a fortnight but no longer than six weeks, where they also have access to a 24 hour rapid response assessment and decision-making service.

“We know that people recover more quickly at home rather than in a hospital environment so we hope this new service will have great health benefits to many people in Somerset.

“By working together, our health, social care and voluntary sector have together begun to develop an alternative and modern approach to mental health patient care that could inform the way care is provided in the future.”

The NHS and council in Somerset is supporting people who are worried about their mental health in other ways too.

This includes a 24-hour Mindline mental health telephone support line to help people in Somerset who are experiencing mental distress. People who are concerned about how they are feeling should contact Somerset Mindline on 01823 276 892.

For more information about Somerset County Council’s response to the coronavirus emergency please visit http://www.somerset.gov.uk/coronavirus, where you can also sign up for regular email updates.

In addition a single phone number is also available for anyone in Somerset who needs Coronavirus-related support from their councils. The Somerset Coronavirus Support Helpline number, 0300 790 6275, makes it easier for people to access any local authority help they may need, including emotional support, during the current crisis. Lines are open seven days a week from 8am to 6pm.