Health provider claims discrimination by state
A Waianae mental-health provider says the state Health Department is targeting his center by canceling two contracts covering services to about 400 people.
Health officials say they tried continually to resolve a number of critical problems at Hale Na'au Pono, Waianae Community Mental Health Center, but negotiations failed.
The Health Department is terminating all Assertive Community Treatment teams in the state Aug. 31. These multidisciplinary teams work with the most seriously mentally ill clients. They are being replaced with community-based case management services.
Health officials believe the new system will be more cost- effective and better for clients. They say case managers will have more flexibility in finding appropriate services for clients in their community.
Providers that have contracts for case management services can move ACT clients into them.
"They (DOH) gave out about 20 community-based case management contracts, and they're taking it away from Waianae," said Poka Laenui, executive director of Hale Na'au Pono, who feels the action is discriminatory.
"They are only targeting us," he said. "They are not allowing us to continue."
He said he received a Health Department letter in May saying it was extending his contract and another one June 2 saying ACT would be terminated in August and the case management contract in June. The center will retain a contract to provide services for mentally ill people in housing.
Laenui said the center has 36 clients receiving assertive treatment services and 360 in community-based case management that must be spread out to other providers.
Michelle Hill, deputy health director for behavioral health and acting division director, described a number of problems with the Waianae center since it received a contract for case management services last July.
She said the problems occurred in three or four areas "critical to our capacity to monitor and assure consumers were receiving the quality care they required."
She said the department tried continually to work with Laenui and remedy the problems but that negotiations broke down.
Laenui feels the Waianae center is being held to higher standards than other mental health providers. But Hill said, "All providers have to meet the same standards. He doesn't want to meet those standards."
She added, "Given all the other problems, we were willing to keep working with him." But a tax clearance, requested in April, was not provided until Friday, she said.
"He has been in business a long time. The DOH has contracted with him a number of years. He knows what we require in contracting."
Hale Na'au received a national award in 1999 for its treatment programs and received high marks from federal court monitors when the mental health system was under federal court oversight.