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StarBulletin.com

State shutters 2 mental health clinics


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POSTED: Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A satellite mental health clinic in Kailua and an Oahu clubhouse to help people with mental illnesses rebuild their lives are being integrated into state facilities to eliminate lease rents.

The Kailua Counseling Center in the Kailua Professional Center, 20 Aulike St., closed Thursday, and the Honolulu Clubhouse at 780 S. Beretania St. will close on Aug. 1, said Dr. Bill Sheehan, medical director and acting chief of the Adult Mental Health Division, Department of Health.

About 100 clients of the Kailua center are being referred to the Windward Oahu Community Mental Health Center in Kaneohe, about six miles away.

The Honolulu Clubhouse, where about 200 “;stable”; mentally ill clients receive help in vocational and living skills, is being integrated into the Kalihi-Palama Community Mental Health Center.

“;We had to look at all the situations where the state had a lease rent agreement as opposed to using state offices,”; Sheehan said. “;We had to make a total dollar amount of cuts. It was all or nothing on leases.”;

He said the lease rent for the Kailua center is about $38,000 a year, plus about $1,000 for electricity, phone, Internet and staff parking. The Kaneohe center is in a state-owned building, he said.

The Honolulu Clubhouse costs about $97,000 in lease rent, while the Kalihi-Palama Community Mental Health Center is state-owned, he said.

“;It seems like a little bit of money but it is part of a bigger package (of savings),”; Sheehan said.

Marya Grambs, executive director of Mental Health America, said closing the Kailua Counseling Center will mean hardship for many clients who will have to take two buses to go to Kaneohe, and “;the issue is such a small amount of money.”;

Sheehan said the Kailua center “;has made every effort to facilitate people moving to Kaneohe to continue services and minimize the inconvenience.

“;It's a tough change to make but one of the obvious places. Lease rents are pure taxpayer dollars going out the door as opposed to state buildings we own and operate,”; he said.

Marianne Chai and her mother, a stroke victim who is in a wheelchair, are among those who have to find a way to Kaneohe.

“;Kailua is so convenient,”; said Chai, who goes to the center every month for a medication refill. Her mother must be transported to the Kaneohe center, and her sister is the only one in the family with access to a car, she said.

Rep. Chris Lee (D, Lanikai-Waimanalo) said a number of people in the community have talked to him about the effects of closing the Kailua center on clients. “;It's a big unknown what it's actually going to do to their routine and treatment they might have.”;

Lee said he talked to state health officials and discussed the situation with his legislative colleagues to see whether there was anything they could do, but “;the budget is in shambles.”;

Wayne Law, administrator of the Community Mental Health Center System, said the Honolulu Clubhouse , one of the oldest of five on Oahu, was located at the Kalihi-Palama Mental Health Center years ago.

He said the clients “;have been excited”; about the relocation. “;They're smiling and happy and still grateful we have a program.”;

Grambs said the Honolulu Clubhouse will have about four-fifths less space at the Kalihi Palama center and no place for members to eat except in an uncovered backyard area.

“;It's heartbreaking to see the system chipped away in big chunks and little chunks,”; she said.