Northumberland’s first mental health ‘safe haven’ to open next year

Northumberland’s first mental health ‘safe haven’ to open next year

Health chiefs have announced that a so-called safe haven for people with mental health problems will open in Northumberland next year – the first of its kind in the county.

A site has been identified in Ashington where the service will be designed to be as welcoming as possible and with input from people with ‘living experience’ of mental health issues.

The work is led by the Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health services in the North East and Cumbria. However, the service is run by the volunteer sector.

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Trained staff will be available to support individuals outside of business hours and to facilitate recovery away from secondary and acute mental health care.

At the Northumberland County Council Health and Welfare Committee meeting on Thursday, Pam Travers, the group leader for the North Locality at CNTW, explained how the service would work and what has already gone into it.

She said: “We have a few of these in Cumbria but not many in the North East. We received £300,000 in equity funding a few months ago and have already identified some accommodation in Ashington.

“Virtual and digital options are also very much on the table for the future. We’re looking at the third sector to run this and there are a number of providers that would be really good choices, but we want to make sure we work with the providers and make sure people are safe.

“We aim to provide a welcoming, non-clinical environment for people suffering from physiological conditions. The team will work after everyone else has gone home, so from 5am to 6pm to 12pm to 1am.

“We want to create a non-medical environment where people feel comfortable having these conversations.”

The next steps include the development of the staffing and vendor model and the completion of some construction work that needs to be done at the site. CNTW anticipates that everything will be ready by the start of the new fiscal year in April.

Coun Wendy Pattison, Cabinet Member for Adult Wellbeing, was thrilled with the news.

At the meeting, she said: “It’s just wonderful to know that our residents can go there after hours when they’re feeling down. The goal is to spread more across the county.

“I simply cannot thank CNTW and its partners enough. It’s just incredible.”

But Amanda Bailey, the board representative for health and well-being in the third sector, said other costs needed to be considered.

She said: “We need the revenue funding. One of the biggest problems is getting people to church because the transport is on weekends and in the evenings.

“We really need revenue from revenue to get people to this Ashington location.”

Ms Travers said discussions on the matter were ongoing, noting that the service would have digital options to accommodate Northumberland’s enormous size.

Coun Pattison added: “I would like one in Blyth, I would like one in Berwick and I would like one in Hexham.”

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