Friday, January 25, 2002

Plan could end
hospital lawsuit

Mental health experts came up with ways
to fix the long-standing problems in Kaneohe

By Helen Altonn

A comprehensive plan filed today in federal court to remedy Hawaii State Hospital deficiencies should lead to the end of 11 years of litigation over the Kaneohe facility if it is "followed and implemented in an appropriate manner," the filing said.

"The plan presents the framework and guide for building a system at Hawaii State Hospital which fosters good patient care and achieves compliance with stipulations and orders," wrote U.S. Magistrate Kevin Chang.

Appointed by Chief U.S. District Judge David Ezra as special master in the case, Chang approved with minor modifications a plan designed by eight mental health experts during a summit last year. The experts were chosen by the U.S. Justice Department and state Health Department

He said achievement of the "intended outcomes" should provide a basis for the parties to ask the court to dismiss the 1991 DOJ lawsuit against the state for federal violations.

Anita Swanson, Health Department deputy director for behavioral health administration, said the plan "provides a great opportunity for the administration of the hospital and the Department of Health to move forward expeditiously to address the remaining items and provide appropriate patient care without federal oversight."

She said "appropriate patient care" is the major thrust of the plan, which proposes adding forensics, developmental disabilities and substance abuse specialists to the system.

The experts, in a letter to Chang Nov. 9, stressed three fundamental elements of the plan: Clear distinctions between functions of the Adult Mental Health Division and the hospital, defined "pathways" between all parts of the treatment and care system, and accountability identified at every level.

The plan establishes tight deadlines to correct the problems.

Chang proposes a "Community Mental Health Summit" to be held by the parties on about March 11, similar to the experts' summit, to draft procedures for the state to provide mental health services meeting "clinical and social needs" of past and present hospital patients.

Chang recommended that Kris A. McLoughlin be appointed to replace Leland Chang as special monitor to assist him in overseeing implementation of the compliance plan.

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