Body of missing Waikato DHB patient found in river

 Body of missing Waikato DHB patient found in river
Photo credit: Newshub.

A body found in the Waikato River has been confirmed to be that of a mental health patient who went missing while on approved unescorted leave.

The man was an "inpatient who was at the stage of transitioning to live in the community," the Waikato District Health Board said.

"Once it was clear that he had not returned as arranged, and was not in the immediate environs of the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre, the police were notified and staff worked closely with the police and family in attempting to locate him," said Vicki Aitken and Dr Rees Tapsell, respectively the executive director and director of clinical services of Waikato DHB's Mental Health & Addictions Service, in a joint statement.

Police confirmed a body was found in the river on Sunday.

The Waikato DHB said they couldn't disclose more about the death "due to patient and family privacy". 

The death has been referred to the coroner.

The disappearance of the patient was not the first such incident for the Waikato DHB. 

In 2015 Nicky Stevens also died during a stay at the Henry Rongomau Bennett mental health facility. In that case, he was left alone outside, despite his family saying he shouldn't be left unsupervised.

In December 2018, Coroner Wallace Bain ruled his death had been "avoidable" and said the DHB didn't take the necessary steps to keep him safe.

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