Residents Blast Plan to Relocate 16 Mentally Ill Patients

Lawrence Wilcox Smith Jr.
Lawrence Wilcox Smith Jr.
Rep. Cynthia Thielen
Rep. Cynthia Thielen
Claudine Tomasa
Claudine Tomasa

AIKAHI (KHNL) - Outrage spreads throughout a tight knit Oahu community over a plan to house mentally ill patients.

Under the plan, more than a dozen patients would live under one roof in Aikahi and they would be right next to homes and an elementary school.

More than 60 residents showed up at a meeting Thursday night to voice their concerns. Many were frustrated with the state for not telling them until the last minute about a plan they fear could bring danger right in their backyards.

The proposed site is at a home on Kaneohe Bay Drive. A for-profit organization called CARE Hawaii wants to use the Aikahi home as a care facility for 16 mentally ill patients.

"It isn't fair to the neighborhood because they're mentally ill, but they don't state what kind of illness and what offenses in the past," says Lawrence Wilcox Smith Jr., a resident who lives next door to the home.

The patients would come from Hawaii State Hospital which is plagued with problems such as overcrowding and has a history of patients assaulting staff.

"When you go to that hospital you've been sent there by the criminal justice system," says Rep. Cynthia Thielen.

The primary concern is the home is nestled in the middle of a neighborhood and is only a one-block walking distance from Aikahi Elementary School.

Thielen spearheaded a neighborhood meeting at the school cafeteria where residents demanded answers from CARE.

"Has the company decided how they're going to take care of runners? Escapees? All of these come into mind because you do have children living next door," says Claudine Tomasa, a Kailua resident.

Thielen says it's not just the safety of kids at stake, but also the patients housed there.

"Don't shove people in like cattle into just this crowded situation, that doesn't help anyone," says Thielen.

The ultimate fate of the house lies in the hands of the State Health Planning and Development Agency. Residents say they can only hope their voices will be a factor in the state's final decision.

The Department of Health was at the meeting, saying the court will determine if the patients are stable enough to live in the community.

CARE says it has adequate staff to watch over the patients at the home. The agency has applied for a permit to convert the home into a care facility.

The state will hold a public hearing on the issue Tuesday. No word yet on when SHPDA will make decision.