A NEW mental health initiative, backed by local police and health authorities, opened in the town centre last Thursday [April 20].
The Solace Café is designed to provide a safe and non-judgemental environment for people to meet others with similar problems, and to access mental health support and advice from peers and professionals in order to deescalate situations.
Located in West Kent Mind’s Wellbeing Centre in St, Mary’s Road, the café has capacity for 20 people at once and will be manned by three members of staff.
The project has been funded by the West Kent’s Clinical Commissioning Group and Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott [pictured far left with Mind volunteers].
It is seen by both organisations as a way to ease the burden on emergency services from people experiencing a mental health crisis.
Last week, in an annual report on the state of UK policing, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Tom Winsor warned: “The provision of mental healthcare has reached such a state of severity that police are often being used to fill the gaps that other agencies cannot.
“This is an unacceptable drain on police resources and it is a profoundly improper way to treat vulnerable people who need care and help.”
“The obligation of the police is to prevent crime. This is not only because this makes society safer – both in reality and in perception – but also because it is far cheaper to prevent a crime than it is to investigate and arrest the offender after the event. The same is true of mental ill health, which is not a crime.”
The Solace Café has already established close links with local police who will be able to drop someone off there instead of taking them into custody.
Similarly, diverting people to the centre may help alleviate the already stretched Tunbridge Wells Hospital Accident and Emergency unit.
Ruth Brown, from West Kent Mind said: “It is great to be able to offer an out of hours mental health service,” adding that a similar project from the charity in Ashford had already proved successful.
For people interested in accessing the services, please call first on: 01732 356630 or 07436102171. However it is possible to simply turn up.
The Solace Café is open on Thursday and Saturday evenings, from 5pm – 9pm (last entry 8:45pm).