Autistic man Ashley Peacock's isolation care costing taxpayers almost $1m a year

Ashley Peacock, a mental health patient in a secure unit at Kenepuru Hospital, with family dog Barney inside a secure ...
SUPPLIED

Ashley Peacock, a mental health patient in a secure unit at Kenepuru Hospital, with family dog Barney inside a secure basketball court at the unit.

It is costing the public healthcare system almost $2500 a day to keep Ashley Peacock behind locked doors, despite human rights concerns and his family's wish for his release.

Peacock, who is a compulsory patient under the Mental Health Act, is an intellectually disabled, autistic and mentally ill man who has spent the past five years at a Porirua facility, spending up to 23 hours a day in an isolation wing.

Capital and Coast District Health Board (CCDHB) told Parliament's health select committee in February it was spending about $750,000 a year to keep Peacock in the facility.

Tawhirimatea Te Korwhai Whaririki, a mental health unit north of Wellington, where Ashley Peacock lives.
SUPPLIED

Tawhirimatea Te Korwhai Whaririki, a mental health unit north of Wellington, where Ashley Peacock lives.

But an Official Information Act response from the health board reveals the total cost to the taxpayer is much higher.

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CCDHB said Gisborne-based Tairawhiti DHB also contributed $183,000 a year to Peacock's care, taking the total cost to more than $900,000.

The money was spent predominantly on staffing and direct patient care costs, such as laundry and food. About $762,000 was spent on staff wages, CCDHB said.

Two non-government organisation staff worked 22.5 hours a week with Peacock. Eight full time-equivalent health board staff also worked with him, including psychiatry and allied health professionals.

"The majority of staff time is spent exclusively with Mr Peacock," the health board said.

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Another $50,000 was spent on escort staff and unit programmes, while $55,000 was spent on disability support funding.

Indirect support, such as management and assessment time costs, was not included in the figure.

Health board staff said at theselect committee hearing that Peacock was a particularly high-risk patient.

When asked by Stuff for a breakdown of assaults by him on his care providers or visitors, CCDHB alleged 29 incidents between January 1, 2016 and January 31, 2017 in its Official Information Act response, although it did not provide any detail.

Dr John Crawshaw, the Health Ministry's director of mental health, said the ministry recognised the "significant" level of investment in Peacock's care by the health boards, and continued to liaise with them about his ongoing needs.

Peacock's case has been highlighted with concern by Amnesty International, the Ombudsman and the Human Rights Commission.

Peacock's parents have long lobbied for his release to leave the facility, where he has spent the past decade, in the hope he can receive care in the community instead.

They will present a petition asking Health Minister Jonathan Coleman to intervene in his case at a health select committee meeting on Wednesday.

The Green Party has been calling for an inquiry into the mental health system. Its health spokeswoman, Julie Anne Genter, said there did not appear to have been any progress on a proposed transition plan out of the facility recommended for Peacock.

Starting the transition was a more desirable outcome than spending almost a million dollars a year keeping him in widely-criticised conditions, she said.

"Instead of locking up that man ... [they] should find a solution that's going to work better for him, and his family, and the people looking after him."

 - Stuff

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