A grieving mother has hit out at Labour MPs David Clark and Andrew Little, accusing them of fobbing off her requests to meet to discuss her son's death.
Nicky Stevens died while in the care of Waikato DHB's mental health services in 2015. The 21-year-old took his own life while a patient at the Henry Rongomau Bennett mental health facility after being 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 Waikato DHB didn't take the necessary steps to keep him safe.
The 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.
In a letter sent on Tuesday and shared with media, Nicky's mother Jane says she has been trying to meet with the ministers to discuss mental health care and support for suicide-bereaved whanau for well over a year, without success.
"It's a very long time to be left waiting for a meeting," she said.
Jane, along with four other bereaved families, first wrote to then Health Minister David Clark in February, 2020 requesting a meeting.
The families expressed concerns about the Waikato DHB's mental health services and called for an urgent investigation into the ongoing risks of harm and death for vulnerable patients. They also asked to discuss better support for grieving families.
"We are appalled by the growing number of whanau in the same position as us, nothing has really changed since the new government promised transformation of the mental health system back in 2017," Jane said.
"I'm onto my third Health Minister since I first asked for the independent investigation into Waikato DHB's mental health services and a meeting with the Minister to discuss our concerns."
Clark replied in June, 2020 agreeing to meet with her "and the other families when I am next in the Waikato", but the meeting never happened.
A week after that letter was sent Clark lost his Health Portfolio. Minister Chris Hipkins briefly took over before Andrew Little became Health Minister after the 2020 election.
Jane said she heard nothing from Little until March, 2021 - a month marking the sixth anniversary of her son's death.
She said Little's letter was "a fob off most likely written by Ministry officials".
"It addresses none of the issues raised by the four whanau and justifies the review being run by DHB staff," said Jane.
Little told Newshub on Tuesday he isn't aware of Jane's letter, but is willing to meet her.
David Clark referred Newshub to Andrew Little for comment.
Where to find help and support:
- Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
- Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
- Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email email@example.com or online chat
- Samaritans - 0800 726 666
- Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
- Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)