Blog: Catching up with our cousins. A catalyst for innovation
Published: 30 Apr 2018
In 2015 I was given the life-changing opportunity of a Churchill Fellowship, aware that with this opportunity came a responsibility to use my research to benefit society. I travelled to the USA, Canada and Australia looking to understand how the emergency services can better respond to mental illness.
I had become aware that the UK’s approach to this issue was well behind other parts of the world. As a police constable, mental ill health in our community has a significant impact on my work, as it does on the work of police forces throughout the country. However, I wasn’t just interested in the police response but also how the police can work with partner agencies, and the role of the community within the response.
I was fortunate to witness some incredible work in all of the places I visited. However, my experience in Los Angeles will be a constant inspiration. Here I witnessed nearly a whole floor of the LAPD headquarters building with cops working as a team with mental health practitioners: an example of a truly multidisciplinary environment which all services should aspire to.
Since my Fellowship I have been able to use my experience of the great work I’d witnessed overseas to inspire change in the UK. In 2016 I launched the Integrated Vulnerability Management Initiative in Leicestershire, which is supported by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.
One aspect of the initiative is the multi-agency Pro-Active Vulnerability Engagement (PAVE) team, who work with vulnerable clients with complex needs who are known to the police and other public services. Because such clients are seen as difficult to engage with, there is a danger of them slipping through the gaps of services. The team creatively engages and works with them to set them on the most appropriate pathways.
Another part of the initiative I am particularly proud of is Op Breakthrough, a collaborative model of multi-agency education and community engagement that develops professionals so they are prepared to work together to respond to the needs of those in crisis.
My Fellowship has left me in no doubt that the community is better served by agencies that work together, are willing to think about outcomes rather than processes, and dare to do things differently. I was fortunate to have the support of my organisation, my colleagues and my family to make the most of my Fellowship and will be forever thankful to WCMT for giving me the opportunity.
If you're inspired by Alex's story, applications are now open for Churchill Fellowships for travel in 2019, and we are inviting applications in a new category - Emergency services: crisis prevention, response and recovery. The deadline for applications is 18 September 2018.