8 Feb 2019

Nicky Stevens' mother devastated at DHB's payout delay

12:21 pm on 8 February 2019

The family of the man who took his own life after walking out of a mental health unit is devastated the Waikato DHB is delaying compensation and an apology by challenging the coroner's findings.

Nicky Stevens

Nicky Stevens Photo: Give a Little

Nicky Stevens, who was 21 years old, walked out of the Waikato District Health Board mental health unit in March 2015.

His body was found in the Waikato River three days later.

Coroner Wallace Bain ruled late last year that the death was a preventable suicide.

He found the treatment Mr Stevens received from the DHB fell short of what he and his parents would have expected.

Mr Stevens' mother, Jane Stevens, said the family met with the DHB after the findings were released, to discuss compensation and an apology.

She said the DHB had come to their family home and she had felt like they were acting in good faith.

But in January the DHB wrote to the family saying the DHB's insurer raised considerable procedural concerns about the coroner's findings with the solicitor general.

Ms Stevens is devastated.

"It seems to us the insurance company that works for them is now calling the shots."

One of the issues raised was that the Coroner would not allow one of the DHB's psychiatrist witnesses to give evidence at the inquest, she said.

"That's blatantly untrue. In fact, given the written and oral evidence, it was the DHB lawyer himself who put to the Coroner that [the psychiatrist] didn't need to give evidence and didn't want delay caused."

The DHB was prolonging the family's suffering and wasting tax-payer dollars, she said.

"What we are wanting is a new way of working with families so that families don't have to go through the absolute torment we've had to go through."

Ms Stevens said it was a "complete" departure from the impression the DHB gave them before Christmas.

"We've been through hell. It's been every day of our lives waiting for this coronial inquiry, to get some outcome that means we have some closure.

"Now the DHB is undermining the process we have been through. No family should have to go through that."

The family has contacted the prime minister's office and is urging the government to step in.

She said it appeared the insurer was acting like an invisible party, overriding the coronial process.

"It's absolutely gobsmacking that that can happen. It feels like an abuse and misuse of public funds."

In a statement, the DHB confirmed that as per the Coroner's Act they were sent the Coroner's draft report to provide feedback on.

"We responded with a considerable number of procedural concerns, not all of these have been acknowledged in the final report."

It said the insurer had instructed the DHB's external counsel to raise concerns with the Solicitor-General in regard to the DHB's support.

"None of our decisions in this matter have been taken lightly, as we understand this has already been a lengthy and painful process for the family," the DHB said.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)

Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.