Mental health program defended
Maui County plans to outsource the services, but some say many patients will suffer
WAILUKU » Health groups and parents on Maui are protesting the elimination of a statewide program that they say has helped keep the mentally ill out of hospitals, courts, prisons and homeless shelters.
But while the state Department of Health plans to terminate the Assertive Community Treatment program starting Sept. 1, health officials said the contractual services provided by the program will be restructured to improve the quality of care.
Officials said the services will be provided by community-based case management teams, including state and private care providers.
Colleen Wallace, executive director on Maui for the Mental Health Association in Hawaii, said the elimination of the program appeared to be a budget-cutting move.
Wallace said the goal of the program is to get the most challenging mentally ill into recovery by providing outreach services through a team of professionals, including a nurse, counselor, psychiatrist, employment counselor and peer specialist.
She said other health services on Maui do not provide the same kind of specialized outreach team.
Wallace estimated there were some 30 people on Maui who would not receive the services provided by the new program.
"These people will get lost again," Wallace said yesterday during a news conference.
Dale Allen-Alioto said her son, 31, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, is beginning to respond well because of the program. "To take it away right now is punitive," she said.
Harriet Collopy, a volunteer with the National Alliance for Mental Illness, said a Maui woman who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia has been in and out of mental institutions and awaiting services through the program.
Collopy said she feels the woman, who is in jail, will have less chance of getting out and being treated for mental illness because of the elimination of the program.
Michelle Hill, state deputy director for behavioral health, said the decision was not a budget-cutting move, but was made to raise the quality of mental health service by improving accountability.
Hill said the department's clients were not receiving all the services that were supposed to be provided under the program, and the state was paying nearly $2 million more to the same clients for additional mental health services.
"We've been paying for something we're not getting the full measure of," she said.