Desperate dad angry at son's care

By Christine McKay -
8 comments
SANCTUARY: Wayne Steffensen is making Norsewood home. PHOTO/Christine McKay
SANCTUARY: Wayne Steffensen is making Norsewood home. PHOTO/Christine McKay

Wayne Steffensen is seeking sanctuary in Norsewood after battling the mental health system over the care of his son Kade for almost a year.

"I'm re-basing myself in Norsewood because hopefully the storm has passed for me and my son," he said.

"But I've been at my wit's end and I believe our mental health systems needs a big revamp. For me and Kade there is an end to it, I know there is, but I didn't know that at the beginning. I've become homeless, my van is clapped out and I'm broke.

"The mental health system failed us completely and who is going to clean up the mess? Me, I suppose. Everything is such a huge mess. Until you go through this you don't realise how it sucks the life out of you."

Mr Steffensen said he no longer had faith in the mental health system which he believed had failed his son because of a lack of resources within the system.

However, Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott told the Dannevirke News in the past year the Government has spent about $1.4 billion on the mental health service nationally, with an additional $12 million going to mental health services in this year's budget.

"The $12 million extra will go towards increased support for primary care and social services to enable people to access mental health help earlier. This funding is on top of an extra $12 million to expand a successful programme which provides intensive alcohol and drug support for pregnant women.

"For rural communities, $600,000 will go towards regional mental health as part of the Government's Rural Mental Wellness Initiative, providing more suicide prevention workshops and employing co-ordinators to work with Rural Support Trusts."

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said Ministry of Health figures showed in 2015 more than 44,500 young people (aged 19 years and under) sought help.

Mr Steffensen's son was one of them.

"In May last year I moved from Waihi to Wellington when it became apparent Kade, then 18, was starting to act weird," he said.

"I had only been there a day when he assaulted his mother. He didn't know who he was or what he was doing and he needed help. Reluctantly I had to get the police to arrest Kade, to get him under the mental health team, but he was processed through the courts and put into the cells. But that s**t wasn't his fault."

Eventually Mr Steffensen went to Lower Hutt Hospital's mental health unit himself to get his son admitted.

"He'd caved in and was in there for six weeks on different medications, diagnosed at first as suffering from schizophrenia. Now his diagnosis is depression with psychosis.

"I was told I needed to get my son back into the community, so we found him a flat and his brother moved in with him in Upper Hutt." While his son was on the right medications and seemed to be getting better, he needed to be monitored to ensure he took the medication.

"I was assured there would be support for Kade, so I moved back to Coromandel, but the support fell away and Kade was put back into TWA (Te Whare Ahuru, the acute inpatient unit of Hutt Valley DHB)."

Notified his son was going to be released on November 7 last year, Mr Steffensen rang and asked if he could be held for another two days to allow him to travel to Wellington to be with his son.

"Two days later though he was in court again after knocking on a neighbour's door after his flat had been robbed. He was remanded by the court and taken back to the flat. I asked that he wasn't left alone, but he was."

Waking to find someone had robbed him while he slept, taking money, his passport and cash card, Kade visited his mother and decided to hitch hike to meet his dad in Coromandel.

"He apparently got a ride to Waiouru, where he was dropped off. It was 12.20am on November 10, dark and cold, but he decided to walk along the Desert Rd where he got clipped by a B-train truck going 100km an hour. He's lucky to be alive. State Highway 1 was closed while the rescue helicopter was brought in to transfer him to Palmerston North Hospital.

"On November 27 he was transferred to Lower Hutt Hospital. He had a shattered eye socket, a hole punched in his forehead, with four plates in his head, his nose ripped off and his elbow and ankle shattered."

Since then Mr Steffensen has been trying to tidy up a situation he describes as "horrible".

In a wheelchair, his son was discharged from hospital on December 23.

"Kade's social worker found us a place on the Kapiti Coast. But it was a big party house and disgusting," Mr Steffensen said.

"Here I was with Kade in a wheelchair, suffering from mental illness and going doo lally on me. So on December 29 we spent the night in my van on the Kapiti foreshore. After Kade was put into short-term respite care, I found a house on the Kapiti Coast at $300 a week and Winz put me down as Kade's caregiver.

"I was left holding the baby and although I went back to temporary work, after two weeks I could see Kade was slipping again and I contacted the mental health early intervention team when I found his meds in the rubbish bin."

Battling the health system and at his wit's end Mr Steffensen approached Kapiti Youth Services.

"They were wonderful, it's a secret gem," he said.

"The counsellor was wonderful and she arranged help for Kade, got him back into hospital and that night he was having surgery on his eye. You know his face was so munted I was worried he'd kill himself.

"We're getting through things now, but our experience with the mental health system has been really bad. There don't seem to be enough people to help those who need it."

"I need Kade to start living his life and I've got to get my life sorted. I had my house broken into in the Coromandel, then everything in my storage unit, including all the new stuff from the insurance, stolen, but I've friends in Norsewood and family in Woodville and Waipukurau and I've got to get out and find work and start up here again."

Kade will undergo more surgery to remove a stent from his nose and although he said he is sick of the lack of support, he is currently completing a living without violence programme.

"We've a bit of work to put all the bits together, but Kade is doing incredibly well, he can walk again, but is still in an out of hospital and not a happy boy," Mr Steffensen said.

Kade previously worked on farms and as a road worker.

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