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Mental health: Specialised mobile crisis teams to help Brussels police

21:57 23/11/2023

Brussels has launched a pilot project to strengthen mobile crisis teams supporting police responding to people with mental health issues.

With an allocation of €1.7m a year, the project is the result of an agreement between three Brussels police zones, Brussels mayor Philippe Close (PS) and federal health minister Frank Vandenbroucke (Vooruit), reports Bruzz.

The mobile teams, made up of mental health professionals, will start assisting Brussels-West, Brussels-North and Brussels-Capital/Ixelles police zones from 15 December.

With the number of calls surrounding people with psychiatric problems continuing to rise in the capital, police have been asking for specialised mobile teams for some time, said Close.

“In 2022, we had more than 1,600 calls for people suffering from psychological disorders, an increase of 24% compared to 2020. This figure continues to increase over the years,” pointed out Brussels Capital and Ixelles zone police chief Michel Goovaerts.

Police can call on specialised services when confronted with homeless people, victims of sexual violence and people suffering from drug addiction, pointed out Goovaerts. “However, Brussels police did not yet have a partner on which to rely to properly take care of people suffering from psychological problems,” he added.

The agreement strengthens the mobile teams of three city hospitals: Saint-Luc, Brugmann and Saint-Pierre. Their teams currently employ 32 full-time staff, which in the future will increase to 44 employees. Some staff are to be deployed on an ad hoc basis at the request of the police.

In addition to the strengthened mobile teams, the project introduces an emergency line for police forces who need advice on psychiatric cases.

The city of Brussels is also providing €150,000 for additional training to more than 1,000 police officers in collaboration with the mental health sector.

The cooperation between police and the mental health sector follows a period of scrutiny of Brussels-Capital Ixelles police zone’s care of people suffering from mental health issues.

Within a period of two years, three people died in the same cell complex, including Sourour Abouda, who is believed to have committed suicide. An investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death is ongoing.

For police chief Goovaerts, a person suffering from depression and at risk of committing suicide would now be treated differently.

"In the future, these kinds of people will normally no longer end up in jail," Goovaerts insisted. "The right decision would be made in consultation with the helpline or the mobile team on site."

Photo: ©Belga


Written by The Bulletin