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Suffolk County Council launches mental health crisis service for children as part of emotional wellbeing hub revamp

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A new mental health crisis service providing 'short term intensive support' for youngsters has launched in Suffolk.

The Crisis Risk Support and Intervention Service (CHRIS) had a soft launch in February, focusing on self-harm and suicide prevention for 0-18 year-olds.

Suffolk County Council said it offered intensive support with visits several times a week.

Suffolk County Council's Endeavour House.
Suffolk County Council's Endeavour House.

The interventions are designed to be short term when youngsters are at their greatest risk, with the idea that they can then continue in longer-term therapeutic support once their risk has stabilised.

James Reeder, cabinet member for children’s and young people’s services at Suffolk County Council, said: “The development of CHRIS is a crucial part of the overall mental health transformation plan for children and young people across east and west Suffolk.

“The key aim of the service is to provide short term intensive support to children and young people aged 0-18 when they are in a mental health crisis.

James Reeder, cabinet member for children’s and young people’s services at Suffolk County Council.
James Reeder, cabinet member for children’s and young people’s services at Suffolk County Council.

“Mental health practitioners can refer children and young people to the service which will wrap around existing support networks already in a child or young person’s life.

“We have already received some positive feedback from families who have used the service – one parent told us that she did not think her daughter would be here without the support provided by CHRIS.

“She also felt the team had supported her to have more confidence as a parent and to make decisions and as a result she now felt more equipped to advocate for her daughter.”

Referrals have already begun from psychiatric liaison teams in east and west Suffolk.

The new service is being monitored to see how it is functioning and where improvements can be made, with a summer review already planned.

After that, referrals can then be made from Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust and the county council.

The scheme is being funded through West Suffolk and Ipswich and East Suffolk clinical commissioning groups, although the amount of funding is not yet clear. It means the service is not available in the Waveney portion of Suffolk, but support there is available through a Norfolk and Waveney CCG scheme called CAIST.

A spokesman from the CCGs said: “It’s so important we give our young people the very best start in life. We continue to work with our partners to offer services that will support good mental wellbeing and will help build a solid foundation for a happy and healthy adult life.

“The recently launched CHRIS service is a brand new provision and will focus on outreach support and works alongside the other crisis support services across the system.”

Children’s mental health support has come to the fore following the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, but had already been a source of demand pre-pandemic.

The county’s Emotional Wellbeing Hub established in March 2018 has been inundated with referrals since its inception, having seen more than 25,000 youngsters at an average of 170 per week by October last year.

It resulted in a sizeable backlog, prompting service bosses to commission Barnardo’s and Suffolk Mind to offer immediate support for those on the waiting list.

The hub has been working on longer term improvements to the service, with the 0-18 crisis service one of those schemes.

Other elements in the pipeline include more provision of primary care workers linked to GP surgeries to offer direct help, and measures to prevent families being passed around the system.