Committee passes resolution to study community-based mental health treatment services

Hawaii’s Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health recently held a public hearing on SR 73, a resolution to form a task force to study the feasibility of creating new centers for community-based mental health and substance abuse treatment services on Oahu.


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Specifically, the resolution directs the task force to evaluate the potential of repurposing available space in Leahi Hospital and Maluhia to create the new community-based treatment centers for non-forensic patients.

“There is a pressing need for expanded community based mental health and substance abuse treatment services in Hawaii,” reads the resolution. “The only State facility for such services is the Hawaii State Hospital, which is at capacity and exclusively used to treat forensic patients.”

The resolution notes that, while the Legislature has already appropriated funds to construct a new forensic patient facility as part of Hawaii State Hospital, there aren’t adequate funds dedicated to outpatient, intermediate, and inpatient levels of community-based mental health treatments.

During the resolution’s public hearing, Hawaii Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson, PhD, testified in support of the resolution.

“I’m very familiar with the [two] facilities. They are a huge asset for the state,” testified Anderson. “We like the idea of forming a task force that would help us understand, and perhaps find ways that we might better provide for this continuum of care.”

Sean Sanada, the Chief Administrative Officer for Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC), Oahu Region, which operates both Maluhia and Leahi Hospital, also spoke in support of the proposed task force.

“The Oahu Region fully supports the opportunity to collaborate with the Department of Health and other private and public agencies to see if we can really address and tackle the mental health and substance abuse issues in our community,” testified Sanada.

The requested task force would consist of the Director of Health, two members appointed by the President of the Senate, two members appointed by the Speaker of the House, the CEO of HHSC, Oahu Region, and a representative from the mental health and substance abuse provider community.

If passed, task force meetings would begin no later than June 1 2019, with a report of findings and recommendations due to the Legislature prior to the start of the 2020 legislative session.

The Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health committee passed the measure with amendments out of committee on a 7-0 vote. The amendments add members to the task force and alter the title of the resolution.