Oahu hospital to launch ‘stabilization program’ for those in mental health crises

Updated: May. 7, 2019 at 5:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A day after announcing it would halt surgeries, Wahiawa General Hospital has found a new line of business: Providing care for people in mental health crises.

On the streets, the need is undeniable.

Mental health advocates estimate there are close to 600 homeless people suffering from severe mental illness across the state. Hundreds more are struggling with addiction.

But when it comes to getting them help, treatment facilities are few and far between.

It’s a problem that’s put a severe strain on almost every emergency room in Hawaii.

“There’s an urgent need for these services,” said Brian Cunningham, the head of Wahiawa General.

Eager to be part of the solution, Cunningham announced the hospital is teaming up with the state to offer those high-needs patients care that will get them off the street.

“This is a stabilization program,” said Cunningham. “So we can manage these people, our citizens and hopefully stop that revolving door.”

The plan is to re-purpose some unused space on the hospital’s second floor, creating around 40 beds for people in need of mental health and substance abuse treatment.

A typical stay would be around two weeks. From there, patients could potentially transition into long-term residential programs.

“These are beds that are long overdue,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

Green confirmed the project will be funded by the state Department of Health. There’s no word yet on how much everything will cost.

“Individuals who are in that cycle going back and forth from the street to the ER cost the state a fortune. So we expect to save the state money overall,” said Green.

The goal is to have the unit opened by the beginning of next year.

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