Mental health cuts linked to violence

Mental health cuts linked to violence

Last week's police shooting of a teen at Roosevelt High School has placed a spotlight on cuts to mental illness programs for children.

The boy -- who pulled a knife on police -- had a history of schizophrenia and family members said he was in desperate need of intensive mental health services but was unable to get adequate treatment.

"It's clear to me that this could have been prevented, should have been prevented," his attorney Eric Seitz said.

The shooting is just the latest violent incident involving mentally ill child. And the teen's experiences have parallels to that of another Roosevelt High School student, who wound up committing suicide in 2011.

Last year, Seitz filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education and the Health Department on behalf of that teen, alleging that the state cut off the boy's intensive mental health services, contributed to his suicide.

And then there's the case of Tittleman Fauatea, who brutally killed a Waianae High School teacher in 2009. During his sentencing, Fauatea's lawyer Barry Sooalo said his client had a case file 800 pages thick that documented his life-long struggle with mental illnesses.

Mental health advocates said cut to children's mental health programs are a ticking time bomb that have already gone off several times.

Marya Grambs, executive director of the Mental Health America of Hawaii, said there are more than 12,000 children in Hawaii with serious mental problems, but there are only 43 hospital beds for them.

And because of cutbacks during the Gov. Linda Lingle's administrations and lack of coordination between state agency, many of these children are falling through the cracks, she said.

"Your kid could be with the DOE having problems, or the DOH having problems, Public Safety, and none of them are talking to each other," said Grambs.

"It's a systemic problem."

The good news is that some of the Lingle era cuts are being restored by the Gov. Neil Abercrombie's administration but it may be years before mental health services for children return to more healthy levels.

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