Effort afoot to create shelter exclusively for homeless with severe mental illness

Effort afoot to create shelter exclusively for homeless with severe mental illness
Updated: Feb. 21, 2018 at 4:33 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Support is growing for the creation of a new homeless shelter exclusively for people suffering from severe mental illness.

Despite a law that allows the court to order treatment for people incapacitated by mental illness, the majority of those living on the street slip back into psychosis soon after leaving the hospital.

The head of the state's largest homeless service provider says that's because there's no place for them to go.

"The likelihood of them actually staying on their medication is really low," said Connie Mitchell, of the Institute for Human Services. "You really want someone to be able to monitor the treatment."

Now, some lawmakers are urging the state to open a new shelter that focuses on long-term recovery.

The idea is to start out small. Initially, the facility would have no more than 10 beds. Staff would help clients re-learn basic skills and make sure they got their medication.

"We've seen people start to change after their first shot. In the beginning it's just making sure they have enough rest," said Mitchell.

Mitchell says after four to six weeks of treatment, many clients can improve enough to live in a group home and even permanent housing.

Scott Morishige, the governor's homeless coordinator, said he supports the concept but added the facility should offer services to more people.

"I think there may be a broader need of people who have serious mental illness that may not necessarily be involuntarily committed but may still be in need of a place to stabilize their situation," Morishige said.

The idea passed its first two readings. Its next hearing is set for Friday.

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