Parents of a Maui woman with a mental illness file suit against the state

Published: Jul. 22, 2019 at 8:46 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A lawsuit by the parents of a severely mentally ill Maui girl alleges that the state improperly terminated her mental health services two years ago.

Victoria Feinberg and David Jerke said their daughter Kela Feinberg suffers from schizoaffective disorder, a severe mental illness that requires intensive medical treatment.

But two years ago after Kela turned 19, they said the state denied her mental health services, triggering a downward spiral that led to her commitment at the State Hospital in Kaneohe in 2018.

“When I spoke to them (hospital staff) last, they said like ‘I’m sorry, your daughter has been strapped from the ankles, knees and all the way up the bed.' And of course, I fainted," said Victoria Feinberg.

A lawsuit filed by the couple said that under federal medicaid law, the state should have provided Kela with mental health services until she turned 21. Failure to do so helped worsen Kela’s condition, the suit said.

“It’s the state’s failure to provide services that is the central cause of her condition today and her institutionalization at the State Hospital -- an institutionalization at this point that has no end in sight," said Tom Helper, litigation director for Lawyers for Equal Justice, which filed the lawsuit.

The state denies terminating services for eligible patients once they turn 18. But it declined comment on the suit.

During the past decade, thousands of mentally ill patients between the ages of 18 and 21 who have been denied mental health services, lawyers said.

“Tragically, Kela’s case represents the very small tip of a very large iceberg. The number of kids served ... has declined by 75 percent,” said attorney Paul Alston, co-counsel for the parents.

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