Michael Peachey and his family "begged" for help from mental health services in the days before he died in an altercation with police.
That's what supporters were told during a rally in Gunnedah on Wednesday.
Mr Peachey's grandmother, Francis Stevens, said the Indigenous man's mental health had deteriorated during the week he died.
"We asked for help. Why didn't help come?" she said.
We asked for help. Why didn't help come?Grandmother Francis Stevens
Police allege Mr Peachey became aggressive to two officers who tried to speak with him after they were called to Herbert Street about 8pm on Thursday, May 20. Officers alleged they were forced to deploy capsicum spray and a taser when a struggle broke out. Mr Peachey lost consciousness and later died in Gunnedah hospital.
In the days before the confrontation the Indigenous man approached Tamworth's Banksia mental health unit, Gunnedah hospital, the police, and other mental health services in both towns "begging for help", according to Greens MLC David Shoebridge.
"In the end the only service that was provided was the police turning up without training, without mental health resources, that ended in the loss of his life," he said.
"This was an avoidable tragedy. Michael knew he needed help, the family knew he needed help, but there was none available. Banksia wouldn't take him - he couldn't get admitted.
"And even if he had been, the demand is so great, and the level of care they're able to provide so modest it was not the answer. The nearest drug rehabilitation unit is 175 km from Gunnedah, at Armidale, and its waiting list is the better part of 12 months' long. This was a family that was let down when they most needed help."
The town didn't even have a GP the family could attend, Mr Shoebridge said.
About 150 to 200 residents gathered in Gunnedah on Wednesday to demand change for the town.
Mr Shoebridge said it was the first protest in living memory in Gunnedah.
"Michael had a partner, a kid, a career as a tradie, and knew he needed help. Instead, he got police and a violent altercation that ended his life. The family want the truth told and they want it to have an impact so the services are finally delivered," he said. "What happened in Gunnedah was not only a tragedy for the family, it was a tragedy for those police who turned up without the training, without the skills and without the support."
Mr Peachey's sister-in-law, Marlee Thomas, was among the family members who addressed at the rally.
"We all came together strong and collected," she said. "I've never seen such strength in a mob before.
"Everyone knew what they were doing here ... there was so much passion and power and strength."
"This won't be the last rally. This is the first rally Gunnedah's had. I 100 per cent guarantee that it's not going to be the last."
Victoria Hoyt, Mr Peachey's partner, said people were "forced into psych wards against their will, but when we request help there is nothing there."
A Red Chief Land Council spokesman said the tragedy demonstrated "serious shortages in dealing with mental health" and committed to sponsor a petition demanding better services.
"... We are awaiting the new Banksia mental health redevelopment in Tamworth and from what has been presented to date, whilst an improvement, will be far short of meeting the needs of Tamworth yet alone the surrounding areas," he said.
The Leader approached Minister for Mental Health Bronwyn Taylor for comment.
We asked if the government was concerned about the level of care available in Gunnedah, whether they would meet with Mr Peachey's family to talk through their concerns, or if it would conduct an investigation into the family's claims regarding his clinical treatment.
Our questions were referred to Hunter New England Health.
Rural and Regional Health Services executive director Susan Heyman offered her sincere condolences to Mr Peachey's family following his death at Gunnedah hospital.
"As this case has been referred to the Coroner we are unable to provide any further details at this time," she said.
"We will continue to support the family, our staff and the Gunnedah community at this difficult time."
NSW Police and the NSW Police Minister were also contacted for comment.
The 27-year-old man's death is the subject of a critical incident investigation.
A female officer was hospitalised after the altercation, suffering a bite wound to the forearm and a knee injury. She was one of two officers deployed for a welfare check on Mr Peachey.
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