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Changing the way police respond to people with mental disorders

The Public Psychiatric Emergency Assessment Tool (PPEAT) is the only tool of its kind in the world enabling frontline police officers to rapidly and accurately identify people with mental disorders and communicate this using a structured framework.

Developed by Professor Karen Wright and Dr Ivan McGlen, this pioneering new framework impacts on police officers’ interactions with people experiencing a mental crisis in a public place and the subsequent communication to health, social or criminal justice services.

People with mental health issues often require immediate assessment and management, but effective communication between police officers and the vulnerable has, historically, been a challenge. The PPEAT has led to greater numbers of people being referred to health and social services and enabled appropriate intervention without criminalisation or police custody. It has protected vulnerable people, making a life-changing difference to their health and wellbeing, and also protected the public in cost-effective ways. Further impacts have occurred nationally when the PPEAT was adopted by the College of Policing as the national professional guideline for the assessment of mental vulnerability and illness. Called the Vulnerability Assessment Framework (VAF), it is available to all 123,000 police officers in England and Wales as well as other safeguarding agencies in the UK.

The tool has produced many benefits, raising the awareness of police officers, enhancing their mental health literacy and has proved to be a highly useful operational aide for individual officers and within teams.

Research team