STAR-BULLETIN / 2001
The Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe houses an average 200 patients, but its capacity is 168.
Mental health law could ease crowding
Gov. Linda Lingle signed into law Friday three measures to improve the mental health system and deal with Hawaii State Hospital overcrowding.
"These new laws strengthen the foundation we have established with our partners to transform mental health services while enhancing access to treatment for those with mental illness," Lingle said in a news release.
A task force led by Maui Sen. Rosalyn Baker (D, Honokohau-Makena) with health and criminal justice representatives produced a comprehensive plan with recommendations for changes in the mental health and court systems.
Some of those changes are reflected in the bills signed by the governor.
The most comprehensive mental health bill is Senate Bill 2396, SD 1, HD 3, CD 1 (Act 100), making procedural, legal and policy changes to reduce Hawaii State Hospital's patients.
The capacity is 168 but the population has averaged 200, with most patients committed by the courts. Discharges also are by the courts.
Under the new law, effective July 1, the state health director or the patient may petition the court for discharge or conditional release, and the court must act on it within 60 days.
The health director also may petition to discharge a patient from conditional release to avoid a person remaining on that status unnecessarily for years. About 400 people are on conditional release.
The new law also makes it a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, to injure an employee of a state-operated or contracted mental health facility.
Also signed was SB 1802, HD 1, CD 1 (Act 98), which allows disclosure of a person's treatment summary by one health care provider to another for the preceding five years to help ensure the patient's continued care and treatment.
Patient records had to be kept sealed under state law without consent from the patient or legal guardian unless court-directed for legal reasons. The change is effective immediately.
SB 3069, SD 2, HD 1, CD 1 (Act 99) requires county police departments to provide the state Department of Health with copies of pertinent police records on adults and juveniles ordered by the courts to the Hawaii State Hospital so proper treatment can be given. Last year the courts committed 217 people to the mental health hospital.
Until now the police record and report from a court-appointed mental health examiner were not available to the hospital when a defendant was committed by the court. The new law is effective immediately.