17 Oct 2019

Victim's family: $100m mental health unit 'not going to make change we need'

7:30 pm on 17 October 2019

The family of a man who took his own life after walking out of Waikato Hospital's mental health unit in 2015 says plans for a new centre at the hospital announced today is good news, but more needs to be done in the community.

Jane Stevens' son Nicky, 21, killed himself after he was let out on an unsupervised smoke break while he was on suicide watch.

Jane Stevens' son Nicky, 21, killed himself after he was let out on an unsupervised smoke break while he was on suicide watch. Photo: Supplied / Jane Stevens

The government has given the green light to spending $100m on a new acute mental health facility to replace the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre.

The Prime Minister Jacinda Adern was at the centre on Thursday for the announcement.

Over the last nine years there has been a 72 percent increase in people seen by Waikato DHB's mental health and addictions services.

Jane Stevens, the mother of Nicky Stevens who killed himself after walking out of the Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre, said more and more people are trying to get access to mental health services but are missing out.

"The stories are endless of families trying to get access to support and not being able to."

Ms Stevens said she recently spoke to to woman whose daughter tried to take her life twice and the second time she was found hanging and was saved.

"They (the family) called in the (mental health) services, but they never came."

She does not doesn't want the main focus to just be on a new building, but to be seen as part of a bigger picture in dealing with mental illness, particularly out in the community.

"If it is just about a building, I mean that is not going to make the change we need."

"If the things that need to be put in place are done then we are not going to have as great a need for acute services.

The Commissioner of the Waikato DHB, Karen Poutasi said the new centre will make a real difference to the delivery of mental health services.

"What goes on inside a building is helped by the designof the building, so having calm, safe, welcoming spaces is very important to the services being delivered and it will make it so much easier to deliver really good services."

The chairperson of the DHB's Iwi Council, Te Pora Thompson-Evans said the new centre will provide a better space for the acutely unwell to be cared for and supported.

She it will be co-designed with iwi.

"A place that focuses on strengthening whanau, bringing people together, that enables our manu motuhake a place to recover and return well back to their home and communities."

Over the last few years there have been a number of high profile cases, like that of Nicky Stevens, where patients have either harmed themselves or others.

The Henry Rongomau Bennett Centre has 53 beds and has regularly been overcrowded due to demand.

Health Minister David Clark said the new centre will make a difference for those at risk.

"And we know there are clinical risks in the current set up and it's not just that it is not the ideal environment in terms of the feel, the sun shine, the sense of space but also that there are clinical risks which we hope will be eliminated in the new building."

The Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern, who made the announcement on the funding in Hamilton says the existing centre is no longer fit for purpose.

"It's outdated, dopes not provide the right environment to provide to support a focus on recovery and mental well being for patients."

"I would say though and I really want to underscore this is that it's no reflection of the hard work of the people who work in those facilities."

The new acute mental health unit will provide for up to 70 beds, 20 more than now.

Construction is due to start in 2022 and the building is expected to be completed in 2023.

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