Father's plea for change after coroner's ruling on Nicky Stevens' death

This article deals with mental health problems, including suicide.

A bereaved father is asking for an apology from the DHB after a coroner's report found mistakes were made in the lead up to his son's death.

Nicky Stevens' death was officially ruled a suicide in the ruling, which criticised his care at the Waikato DHB's Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre before his death.

Mr Stevens walked out of the centre in March 2015 for a smoke, which was allowed. His body was found the Waikato River three days later.

Coroner Wallace Bain found Mr Stevens should not have been allowed out of the centre unescorted, which his parents had opposed due to fears he would self-harm.

"As a result of the deficiencies in his care, he took his own life in the precise manner and place that he had previously said he would," the coroner said.

Dave Macpherson told The AM Show Mr Stevens' family had raised concerns about Mr Stevens' care, especially his leave from the centre, before he died.

It's been vindicating to hear they weren't wrong in saying mistakes were made.

"But you don't want to be vindicated for this sort of reason I guess," Mr Macpherson said.

"It's a bittersweet situation, but the report has basically said, from the coroner, that everything we've been saying about the lack of care by the Waikato DHB's mental health unit has actually turned out to be true, in the coroner's opinion."

He's now asking for an apology from the DHB, and change to prevent the situation ever reoccurring.

"Accountability and responsibility matter, we've had a couple of comments in the past 'oh we didn't do everything according to policy' and there's been no apology," he said.

"We want a completely, unedited, unqualified apology. We want compensation for the costs that we have had there, like our lawyer, who was competing against very highly paid, taxpayer funded lawyers...

"We want acknowledgement of all of the problems that the coroner's highlighted and, also I might add, that the Mental Health Inquiry has sort of echoed in the last few days.

"We want ironclad guarantee that they're going to be fixed, family are going to be listened to in situations like this, that there's going to be an independent and speedy way of solving issues like this." 

Mr Macpherson has backing from Parliament, with National MP Judith Collins telling The AM Show the family is owed some kind of apology.

"Clearly there were mistakes made. Clearly Nicky Stevens has died way before his time, and he didn't have to. I would have thought an apology is appropriate."

Labour MP Michael Wood also called for an apology and said the situation was heartbreaking.

"It's just a complete heartbreaker, a feeling of total devastation to not only lose your son, but feel as if the systems have completely let him down.

"If it was me sitting in the decision-making box, I think an apology would be in order. But then you've got to move on to putting things right."

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