Mum wants psychiatric help for troubled son
The Southland family of a volatile teenager say they fear for his wellbeing unless mental health authorities give him the help he requires.
The mother of 19-year-old Ben Vercoe has spoken out about her unsuccessful attempts to get the Southern District Health Board's mental health team to take him into residential care and diagnose his mental health issues.
Judge Raoul Neave highlighted Vercoe's plight in Invercargill District Court last month when sentencing him to jail for two assaults on women.
The judge indicated Vercoe should not be going to jail because the "obvious place" for him was the mental health services.
The judge expressed frustration at the lack of services in Invercargill to help people with possible mental health and drug and alcohol problems.
His only option was to sentence Vercoe to a short term in jail in the hope it would give the probation service time to find a solution, the judge said.
Vercoe's lawyer, Mike Newell, agreed his client needed help but said no-one was able to provide it, while a psychiatrist who saw Vercoe while on he was remand recommended Southland mental health services provide Vercoe with support.
Vercoe's mother said this week she had asked the Southern District Health Board to help her son about 10 times since Christmas and had invariably been told to ring police.
When mental health assessed her son they said he didn't fit into their criteria for help, meaning he was not diagnosed with any condition and not placed into supported accommodation, she said.
Vercoe has attention deficit disorder, and a long history of disruptive, violent and non-compliant behaviour. The one occasion Vercoe admitted himself into the mental health unit had resulted in him being escorted off the premises two days later due to his unacceptable behaviour, his mother said.
Vercoe was released from prison last week and went to Hamilton to live with his father after serving a short sentence for assaulting two female family members.
Ms Hart, who has a protection order out against her son, said he should have been sent to a mental health residence in Southland.
She feared his behaviour and temper - which had seen him commit assaults against his family, harm himself on purpose, put his head through bedroom walls and complain of voices in his head - might ultimately result in him ending up in a North Island jail which could be catastrophic for his wellbeing.
"I want to see him get a proper assessment and have some support so he can live life as an independent person."
Vercoe's uncle, Des Hoyes, agreed, saying that sending the teenager up north without first dealing with his mental health issues could result in a tragedy.
"I think it's an absolute dis- aster that it's so hard to get help for Ben when help is so obviously needed," Mr Hoyes said.
Dr Alfred Dell'Ario, medical director at the mental health and addiction service in Southland, said it did not publicly comment on individual cases, but said the mental health service was available to anyone experiencing a moderate to severe mental illness.
"Anyone presenting to us is always assessed and, if required, appropriate treatment is offered.
"We are always willing to discuss concerns individuals or their families may have about our services."
Corrections Services regional manager Ian Bourke said it had worked with Vercoe, his family and other agencies to provide him with appropriate post-release support. "We are unable to comment further on this offender's individual circumstances.”
- © Fairfax NZ News
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