Coroner recommends review of helpline service

By Sophie Ryan

3 comments
Tracey Ridley called two emergency helplines before she died.
Tracey Ridley called two emergency helplines before she died.

A woman who died after an overdose made two calls to emergency helplines that went unanswered before her death.

Coroner Gary Evans has released the finding of an inquest into the death of Tracey Ridley, who was 30 when she died at her home in Hastings in 2012. She had fatal doses of a painkiller in her system and also alcohol.

Coroner Evans said it could not be established whether the death was intentional based on the evidence brought before him.

He recommended that the structure and operation of helpline services be the subject of a review.

He recommended the helplines deliver a 24-hour and seven-day-a-week service providing triage, assistance and advice of a high standard across all areas.

Deputy chief executive of family and community services for Ministry of Social Development Murray Edridge wrote to the coroner on May 29, saying the ministry was preparing terms of reference for a review of telephone helplines.

"I believe there is real value both in terms of service provision and the optimisation of funding to review and consolidate how these services are provided and the organisational infrastructures that support their provision.

He said "a common technology backbone" would provide the "best opportunities for efficiency and effectiveness".

Before Ms Ridley's death she called her partner, her brother, the Alcohol Drug Helpline and the Depression Helpline, the finding said. The two calls to the helplines were made at 2.05am and 2.08am. Neither of the helplines were operating at those hours.

Lifeline Aotearoa Helpline manager Paula Polkinghorne provided the inquest details of the 108 helplines across the country around various areas.

She said the creation of one national "well-being" number would best serve the needs of New Zealanders.

She said that one helpline would be more flexible, cost-efficient, widely known and recognised and would be more comprehensive.

Alcohol Drug Helpline and the Depression Helpline could not be reached for comment last night.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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