The saga of a mentally ill Nelson man who is falling between the cracks of the health and justice systems could be a “tragedy waiting to happen,” says Nelson MP Nick Smith.
Patrick Awarangi, 26, is currently in jail awaiting a court date for the latest in a long string of violence offences. He has been identified as being on the autism spectrum but does not fit the right criteria for supported living, something his father says he is desperate for.
“Patrick has lived here but has wrecked the house and the cars,” Koro Awarangi says. “He is just like a tornado.”
Koro says Patrick needs a supported place where he can go home to no matter what sort of day he has had. He has a short temper that can quickly explode into a violent rage.
However, over the years Koro says he has been endlessly frustrated by the mental health system, which says Patrick’s disorder is not acute enough to warrant extra care.
A mental health clinic letter from the health board describes Patrick with having conduct disorder and an autism spectrum disorder but has not been diagnosed with any additional serious mental illness.
Koro says he has been bounced around hundreds of meetings but to know avail. Then, when Patrick flies into a rage, including a violence charge against his own father, it is left to police to deal with, which Koro says is not fair on them either.
“There is nowhere for him to go so Patrick gets to go to jail. They are using the justice system to sure up the shortfall in the mental health system.”
Nelson MP Nick Smith says Patrick’s parents have gone to “incredible lengths” to help him.
“Their home has been repeatedly damaged to the point they can’t get insurance and they have put their own safety at risk in trying to provide a refuge for Patrick. It is one of the most tragic constituency cases that I have dealt with.”
Nick says that Patrick was able to get a Housing New Zealand home but his behaviour was so aggressive towards his neighbours that they revoked the tenancy.
“He keeps ending up in prison as a consequence of his aggression and behaviour. He is one of these awful examples of someone falling between the mental health and justice systems.”
Nick says he has repeatedly raised the issue with the district health board but they say it is for police and justice to deal with. He says the right answer for Patrick is specialist supported housing.
“His is an exceptional and complex case but we need to get systems of government to work so that his family is not being put at risk, he is not repeatedly being locked up, but that we all keep the community safe.”
He says he is incredibly frustrated that the family keep getting pushed “from pillar to post” within the public sector with each department saying it’s somebody else’s problem.
“I worry that it’s just a tragedy waiting to happen.”