After 3 tries, advocates unable to get judge to force mentally ill woman into treatment

After 3 tries, advocates unable to get judge to force mentally ill woman into treatment
Published: Aug. 3, 2015 at 8:55 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 3, 2015 at 10:07 PM HST
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Laura Matsuzaki
Laura Matsuzaki

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Advocates for the homeless mentally ill have been unable to convince three different judges to use a new law to force a woman living on the streets into mental treatment.

It's a law that could also help someone like the mentally ill woman who owns that house in Kaimuki that neighbors complained was a smelly, unsightly mess for years.

Just a few weeks ago, crews removed 21 tons of trash from the home on 2nd Avenue known as the house of squalor in Kaimuki.  It's an example of problems with our social services system, because the mentally ill owner of the home fell through the cracks for years.

Court records show that seven years ago, long before the home was overrun with trash, rats, feces and urine, the city was citing 73-year-old Laura Matsuzaki for litter scattered throughout her yard.

"It certainly does raise some questions that had the system provided proper care to her, might this whole other problem been avoided?" said Louis Erteschik, the staff attorney of Hawaii Disability Rights Center.

Records show in April of 2014, Matsuzaki showed up at the Ward movie theaters, defecated all over herself and was screaming that she was going to kill everyone.  A police psychologist had her committed for mental evaluation at Queens Medical Center.

In May, Matsuzaki was cited for trespassing at a Manoa restaurant in late May, but court filings by city officials said no one can locate her and she has no known relatives.

"I also found it sort of ironic that the city claims they have no way of locating her and they have no idea where she is.  Where it's pretty clear that on multiple number of times, she's been right there at the psych unit a Queens Hospital," Erteschik said.

Since Matsuzaki has no known relatives, neighbors or anyone else could have called the state's Adult Protective Services office and started the process toward getting her a guardian, but no one apparently did.

State Rep. Karl Rhoads, chair of the State House judiciary committee said, "One of the powers of the guardian is to consent to medical or other treatment or service for the ward, so while a court might not specifically order it, the guardian could consent on her behalf for mental health treatment."

Why didn't authorities intervene in Matsuzaki's case sooner?

Rhoads said, "Part of the answer is it doesn't rise to the level of an emergency compared to what some other people are experiencing."

"There are many people wandering the streets of Honolulu who are way worse off than this person is and who have made more direct threats and made them repeatedly and don't have a house to live in," Rhoads added.

Homeless advocates have been unable to get three different judges to force another woman who's lived on the streets for 20 years into mental treatment under a new community treatment law passed in 2013 but tweaked by lawmakers and signed into law this year.  The woman sits in her own urine in Chinatown, occasionally yelling at people who pass by.

"We don't want to force everyone into treatment, just those who really suffer mental illness and absolutely need that. It is our responsibility to care for them as well," said Kimo Carvahlo, a spokesman for the Institute for Human Services, Oahu's largest homeless shelter.

Their next tactic: appointing a guardian for the woman, hoping a judge will approve requiring mental treatment if she is represented by a third party.

"The office of public Guardian through the Family Court then assigns us a guardian to advocate on the client's behalf as we're going through the court process, as we're going through the treatment process, as we're going through the financing," Carvalho said.

"These clients are the ones that are in our faces, they're the ones that are causing the most aggression to our public community and they're really the ones that the public feels there should be aggressive intervention," he added.

Related Link:

First case forcing mental treatment on homeless woman thrown out

City removes 21 tons of debris from Kaimuki home filled with trash

Kaimuki squalor home cleanup begins

City chooses contractor to clean Kaimuki eyesore

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