Hawaii Health Department issues behavioral health report

The state’s Department of Health (DOH) delivered a report to the Hawaii State Legislature in December targeting areas the state could improve in providing health care to those suffering from homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse disorders. 


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Ensuring equal access to care, standardizing and centralizing services to these groups and placing patients in a continuum of care, along with diverting these populations from jail and into recovery services, were top priorities identified in the report. 

“Hawaii community members who experience homelessness and chronic homelessness are especially at risk for substance dependence issues,” read the report. “Aside from alcohol, methamphetamine remains Hawaii’s most prevalent drug use among adults. Hawaii also has one of the highest rates of incarceration due to methamphetamine-related convictions.”

Resources to help the Aloha state’s homeless population are more few and far between than medical professionals would like, the report said. Geographical obstacles unique to Hawaii result in a lack of resources, services and professionals who can meet the behavioral and mental health needs of Hawaii residents, and the report found a particular need in Oahu, where specialty care services and behavioral health resources are scant. Those who are underinsured or who have complex needs are especially hard to reach given the rural communities on the island.

Telepsychology tools, response services and consolidating entities that can meet the needs of Hawaii’s residents are all solutions the DOH put forward in addressing the growing mental health needs of the state. 

Other recommendations identified by the report included finding methods of paying for continued mental and behavioral health care, finding facilities that can accommodate the growing number of patients with behavioral health care needs and finding diversion methods, effectively keeping patients away from jail. 

“Going forward, it will be important to maintain the momentum of these current efforts through documentation of progress and effectiveness as well as through adjusting objectives as needed,” the report went on to say. “We ask for continuing support for our current initiatives and existing systems, as well as commitment of ongoing evaluation of our behavioral healthcare and related systems so that we can continue to build a continuum that is more accessible along a cohesive and coordinated system of care.”