Thursday, June 17, 1999

State Hospital makes
strides under Law

By Helen Altonn


When Wayne Law became interim administrator of Hawaii State Hospital last September, it was in deep trouble.

Previous administrator Martin St. Clair had been removed because of management style. Staff members were complaining about increasing patient assaults because of a new treatment program they said was inappropriate for some patients.

The hospital faced deadlines it couldn't meet for improvements required in a 1991 settlement of a lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice. And the Justice Department was concerned about the hospital's administrative stability and rehabilitation programs.

Now, says Law, "I think the mood is better and more focused. ... We have continually sought staff input over this process and are continuing to do so."

Law formerly headed the Kauai Community Mental Health Center. The state Health Department brought him to Honolulu last July to help set up a Clubhouse program for the mentally ill at the old Blaisdell Hotel.

His State Hospital job became permanent June 1. "It's a great challenge," he said. "I've enjoyed working with the staff."

Whether it's the Clubhouse or the hospital, "the principles are the same," Law said, adding that the hospital is just "on a larger scale."

"The thing exciting to me, probably one of the strengths I may possibly bring, is understanding of the community side of things, in terms of community services," he said.

"The hospital is working toward integrating services with the community and strengthening that relationship, which is important."

U.S. District Judge David Ezra set Dec. 20 as the deadline for completion of hospital improvements.

Asked if he believes that's possible, Law's answer is a definite "yes."

"We're working really hard," he said. "This place is a fishbowl, as you can imagine. There's a lot of external input into what's going on."

Distracting issues have come up, he said, such as legislative bills. "The staff is trying hard to focus on patient care. That's what we're pushing ... things we do have control over, the services we provide to the patient."

In the past, Law said, patients would remain at the hospital a long time, and it was difficult to get them into appropriate community settings. "The attitude at the hospital was more of custodial care for a person for an indefinite length of time."

The hospital is viewed now as "an episode of care in a continuum," he said. "Our focus is to work toward community reintegration."

The hospital discharged 132 patients last year compared with 101 in 1997 -- a 24 percent increase, he said.

"The connection with the community is much stronger. We've seen a good deal of success from people who are able to get into the community and maintain themselves," he said.

The hospital faces legal and funding issues in trying to move many of its present 168 patients into community treatment programs. Many are criminal commitments from the court. The Legislature also provided no money to increase private programs.

"There's an expected amount of concern and what-not among staff" about the hospital's situation, Law said. "In an organization this large there is always some. We're working in a positive direction to address those issues as much as we can."

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