Monday, May 11, 2009

Dangerous mental patients not secured

We would like to express our "mahalo" to you for your hard work in a particularly difficult legislative session.

I am writing to request you assistance and support regarding a concern that been voiced at our Neighborhood Board meeting regarding the accountability of Hawaii State Hospital officials for the escape of patients who may pose a hazard to our community. As you are aware, a patient who had a particularly violent history recently walked away from the facility and his absence was not reported in the media for at least 8 hours after he was discovered missing. Hospital officials contend that their responsibility for escaped patients ends when they report the absence to police but it is also unclear when hospital officials reported the patient absent to the police. Some members of the board have questioned this attitude and whether adequate measures are in place to safeguard the public's safety.

Our board has requested that an official from the Dept of Health who can answer questions concerning security at the Kaneohe facility be present at our next meeting on June 21. At this point, they have declined our invitation and instead have asked members to attend one of their regularly conducted meetings in Honolulu. This is not an acceptible alternative since members of the community are less likely to be able attend DoH meetings. If you are concerned about this issue as we are, we ask that you convey our concerns to Dr. Fukino or her designated spokesperson to request that they attend our meeting on the 21st or a meeting in the near future to respond to community concerns.

From an article appearing in today's newspaper it appears that budgetary shortfalls will impose a greater burden on our Kaneohe community to service the needs of the mentally handicapped. While the residents of our community have always been welcoming and understanding with regards to helping those in need, I have to wonder aloud whether our "aloha" is sometimes misinterpreted to be complacency inviting abuse by some state officials. During the past decade, you and your predecessors in the legislature have done much to change the image of Kaneohe as the town whose name was most popularly identified with the large mental asylum there and the patients who used to wander about on weekends. That seemed to change when much of the former institution became a center for higher education. That progress that we have made in overcoming that image is now threatened unless we do more to ensure that Kaneohe doesn't again become a dumping ground for patients and that patients who pose a danger to the community are properly secured.

I am hoping that you will support our efforts to ensure greater accountability by the DoH for patients who may pose a danger to the community and to help make sure that Kaneohe does not again become the synonymous with the hospital that is located here.

Thank you for your support and assistance.

Roy Yanagihara
Kaneohe Neighborhood Board

No comments: