Nicky Stevens' family calls for 'urgent investigation' of Waikato DHB mental health services

Nicky Stevens died in 2015.
Nicky Stevens died in 2015. Photo credit: Supplied

A group of families is calling for an urgent investigation into the Waikato DHB's mental health services. 

Jane Stevens, whose son Nicky died under the care of Waikato DHB's mental health services, says she is worried about the ongoing risks to vulnerable patients.

Twenty-one-year-old Nicky took his own life while in the care of the Henry Rongomau Bennett mental health facility in 2015. He was let outside alone, despite his family saying he shouldn't be left unsupervised. 

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

The Waikato DHB later apologised to Stevens' family, acknowledging the "hurt and anguish" they experienced. It also withdrew a complaint it had lodged about the Coroner's findings.

Stevens, along with three other families, has now sent an open letter to Minister of Health David Clark pushing for change at Waikato DHB facilities.

The letter says the families "are deeply concerned at the ongoing risks of harm or death to vulnerable patients due to the continuing failure of the Waikato DHB to provide safe and high-quality care both in the community and in its inpatient facilities".

"Preventable tragedies are happening too often," the letter adds.

"I keep getting families coming to me with absolutely horrific stories of what's going on for their family members," Stevens told Newshub.

She says the previous Government looked to upgrade the facility - but ignored the problems. 

"You can give a person good service in a tent - you don't need a $100-million building," she said.

Stevens said she hopes the Minister will meet with the group to hear their concerns.

"Otherwise it's just him taking advice again from a Ministry that really isn't committed to getting to the bottom of what's going on."

The letter calls for the Minister to undertake a "full, independent and urgent" investigation into safety and quality of the mental health services; to establish a complaints and review body; and to commit significant resourcing to the development of support systems for people and families using the facilities to "enable them to be effectively supported and have a voice during care and treatment, serious and sentinel incidents, reviews, inquests and other processes".

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