Advocacy

 

Mental Health America of Hawai`i has a 68-year long record of advocating tirelessly for the needs and rights of people with mental health problems.

Our current efforts are directed towards insuring that those with severe and persistent mental illness who are served by the State receive the quality services they deserve.

If you want to get involved in our advocacy efforts, click here.  We need your help to continue to alert and activate the public when people who need services are not getting them.

Today, strong advocacy is needed more than ever because of the draconian budget cuts which have reduced or eliminated a great many programs.

For example, in July of 2009, the State Department of Health reduced the numbers of people it served by changing their eligibility rules.  It now serves only people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, schizo-affective disorder, and major depressive disorder with psychotic features; eliminated were people with PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and those suffering from Major Depression but not having psychotic features.

We believe that in doing this the Department of Health is abdicating its responsibilities to provide care and treatment to people with mental illnesses.

The Department of Health also dramatically reduced case management hours, leaving many clients without adequate services.

MHA-Hawai`i raises the alarm about these cuts and speaks out to the media whenever possible to educate the public that by cutting back these services, we are not only putting people who have mental illness at risk, and devastating their families, but we are incurring additional expenses through increased Emergency Room visits, police arrests, incarceration, hospitalization, and homelessness.  

Recent Advocacy

In the recent past, we (in partnership with others, of course) have successfully advocated to:

  • Obtain parity in health insurance coverage for mental health problems – that is, a mental health problem will be covered equally as a physical health problem. 
  • Raise the Personal Needs allowance that people in residential care homes (the elderly and disabled, many of whom have mental illnesses) from $30 to $50 per month.  This allowance is for personal hygiene needs, transportation, recreation, etc.
  • Get a Psychiatric Advance Directive law passed; this is a legal document allowing a person to direct his or her mental health care in the event that he or she becomes unable to make or communicate decisions.  Can spell out treatment preferences, identify people to make decisions on their behalf, etc.  



Our Long History of Advocacy

In earlier years, MHA-Hawai`i was in the forefront of many important mental health rights issues:

  • In the 1940’s and 1950’s our emphasis was on improving care of patients at the State Hospital in Kaneohe.
  • In 1976, we helped pass Hawaii’s progressive Civil Commitment Law in 1976 and in 1980 the comprehensive Patient Rights Law (Act 272) and Residential Treatment Program Law. These initiatives were sorely needed, given that patients at the State Hospital were restrained in iron shackles until 1982.
  • In 1984, we helped pass Hawaii’s first Mental Health and Substance Abuse System Act (Act 218), which made community mental health centers responsible for planning, budgeting, and coordinating Hawaii’s mental health service system
  • In the late 1980s and 1990s, MHA-H was a potent force in literally raising millions of dollars for community mental health centers, children and youth mental health services, crisis and residential services, and substance abuse services.
  • In 1991, we were active in the Justice Department lawsuit that resulted in a federal consent decree alleging constitutional violations of Hawai`i State Hospital patients, which in later years extended to mandating improvements in the community mental health system.
  • In 1994, we were active in the lawsuit that became the Felix Consent Decree, which required improvements in mental health services for Hawaii’s children and adolescents.
© Mental Health America of Hawaii
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