After 2 brutal attacks, some call for greater efforts to ensure the mentally ill get treatment

After 2 brutal attacks, some call for greater efforts to ensure the mentally ill get treatment
Updated: Apr. 20, 2017 at 4:52 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two random violent attacks in recent days are raising putting a new focus on how the state can ensure mentally ill people with records of violence get treatment.

On Monday, an 80-year-old woman sustained massive injuries while waiting for the bus in Downtown Honolulu.

The following night, a grocery store manager in Haleiwa had his throat slashed by a man who bystanders said was talking about vampires.

Both suspects are homeless with lengthy rap sheets -- and a history of mental illness.

Deputy Prosecutor Scott Spallina was in court Thursday morning to request a higher bail for Steven Ho, who is suspected of beating the elderly woman.

"Unfortunately, we're seeing more crimes where the homeless are targeting our seniors," he said.

State Sen. Josh Green, chairman of the House Human Services Committee, said judges needs to step up to make sure the mentally ill get treatment.

"When people get discharged either too soon or because of capacity issues these violent actions take place and we have to stop that," he said.

In 2014, the state passed a law that allows the courts to step in and order treatment for people incapacitated by mental illness.

Despite the need, it's only been used a handful of times.

"Some of it will mean the courts say, 'Hey, you have to see a doctor or we're not letting you go,'" Green said.

He added that judges must not infringe on people's civil rights, but anti-psychotic drugs should be prescribed case-by-case .

"We could drop the number of violent acts by 70 or 80 percent if people could get some medication," Green said.

Psychiatrists say anti-psychotic drugs are much better now than they used to be. Instead of taking pills, a patient can get a shot that lasts up to a month.

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