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Dedicated mental health service for rough sleepers launches

​Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has launched a year-long pilot to provide rough sleepers in the Ipswich and Suffolk Coastal areas with dedicated mental health assessment and short-term interventions.

The new initiative will see Senior Mental Health Practitioner Jonathan Dickson work with the Rough Sleeping Project to engage with people who are currently not accessing mental health services, with the aim of getting them help to address underlying mental health conditions.

The pilot, which began at the start of this month, has been made possible after Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk Coastal District Council successfully secured funding for the role from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Jonathan’s first priority will be to work alongside partner organisations to identify the level of need and barriers to these individuals getting help for their mental health.

He also plans to complete thorough assessments and offer short-term interventions for people who are either already sleeping rough or at a high risk of doing so, with the aim of enabling them to access mainstream mental health services.

In addition, Jonathan will assist other organisations, such as housing support organisations and health outreach services, to support clients with mental health issues.

“I have always been very keen on working with the most disadvantaged, marginalised and hardest to engage people in our community, which is why I applied for this job,” said Jonathan, who moved to the role from NSFT’s Access and Assessment Team.

“Many rough sleepers tend to bounce around between different services. They can be very complex, chaotic and spend a lot of time in crisis. This means they could be seen by a variety of different teams without really engaging with any service on an ongoing basis.

“My aim is to help get them into mainstream services, or to offer support and guidance to the teams already working with this client group. I will also be trying to build up trust with individuals and break down the barriers which currently exist so that individuals and services can work together more effectively.

“Although the role will be challenging, it also has the potential to make a real difference to people’s health and wellbeing, which in turn could reduce the numbers sleeping rough by helping them into stable, permanent homes or by preventing them from rough sleeping in the first place.”

A similar scheme is due to launch in west Suffolk within the next few months, once recruitment has taken place.

Caption: Jonathan Dickson

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