Ninety days ago our son and brother Nicky Stevens was found drowned in the Waikato River (12 March 2015).
In the three month’s since Nicky’s parents were taken by police to view his body, almost nothing has yet been done to determine what happened, who was responsible, and what improvements are needed to our problem mental health services.
Most of the promised enquiries have not even been started, and none are anywhere near completion. Officials of many stripes have refused to meet with the family, have refused to supply information in many cases, and some have ignored the family’s communications.
The official mental health system has badly failed Nicky’s “90-Day Trial”, and is in need of a dramatic overhaul.
Nicky had been let out unescorted from Waikato DHB’s Henry Bennett Centre, where psychiatrists had placed him on a compulsory care order under the Mental Health Act.
Nicky was very ill at the time, and had tried twice to commit suicide, including an attempt to drown himself in the River less than two weeks earlier. His body was found three days after he went missing.
DHB authorities, and the ‘responsible’ psychiatrists had been warned several times by the family that Nicky should not be left alone, including in writing and in face-to-face meetings, because of the high risk of self-harm.
The family’s pleas were ignored.
Nicky was reported missing less than two hours after he disappeared, but Police took over two days before commencing any search for him. One day after he went missing, he was sighted in central Hamilton.
Checklist: Official (in)action following Nicky’s death –
- Waikato DHB internal enquiry – not yet started. The DHB has also refused to fund Nicky’s family’s legal costs for the Coroner’s Inquest
- Waikato DHB external security enquiry – not yet started
- Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman – incorrectly claims above enquiries have started and refuses to meet with Nicky’s family to discuss problems with mental health services
- District Inspectors of Mental Health – the ‘independent’ people have initiated no enquiry, despite being officially advised of Nicky’s death only days afterwards, and have refused to meet with Nicky’s family
- Health Quality & Safety Commission – have received complaint about lack of DHB action, but have not insisted the DHB meet their 72-day time limit for completion of internal enquiries
- Health & Disability Commission – have recommended to Nicky’s family not to complain to them until after the Coroner’s inquest
- Coroner – have communicated with Nicky’s family & lawyer to say there is no holdup from Coroner’s viewpoint (however, our lawyer suggests we don’t expect an Inquest before November 2015, and more likely March 2016)
- Ministry of Health – have refused to instruct the DHB and District Inspectors to commence the above enquiries
- Police – late in May commenced enquiry into circumstances around Nicky’s death. No completion time limit advised, but some witness statements taken. File still being reviewed
- Independent Police Conduct Authority – have agreed to conduct their own enquiry into slow police missing person’s response, has started this week.
Nicky’s mother Jane Stevens has stated “no family that has been through what we have, should be treated with the official contempt and lack of action that we have received.”
Nicky’s brother Tony Stevens describes the lack of action as “a backside-covering exercise on a massive scale. They hope to delay action for long enough to make most people forget what happened to my brother.”
Nicky’s dad Dave Macpherson says “our family owes it to Nicky, and to the thousands of other families badly affected by this country’s poor mental health system, to fight for justice for Nicky. We won’t give up.”