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State contracts Wahiawa hospital for mental health, drug abuse patients

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - 5/8/2019

May 08-- May 8--The state Department of Health is contracting with Wahiawa General Hospital to use up to 30 beds by next year for mental health and substance abuse patients.

The beds will be for short term "mental health stabilization," and bridge the gap between the most severe psychiatric treatment and long-term residential care programs, said Eddie Mersereau, deputy director of the DOH Behavioral Health Administration.

Following the short-term stays -- generally 15 days or less -- individuals could transition to a long-term residential program if necessary. The state projects the program will help up to 500 patients per year and save "millions of dollars" from fewer repeat emergency room visits.

Over the past year, more than 300 people on Oahu with multiple mental health emergencies went to the ER, but were not hospitalized for severe psychiatric care.

"We're trying to keep them from going to the ER

if they don't need to," Mersereau said. "This is one of the pukas in the behavioral health care system. What we're moving towards is connecting and linking the resources that are out there more effectively."

The state's critical demand for mental health care is worsening with limited capacity in the community. The program will provide a "vital resource" for the chronically homeless in need of short-term medical and psychiatric care.

"This is a critical part of the broader solution to end homelessness in Hawaii, which includes permanent supportive housing for all, advanced help for the most seriously mentally ill on our streets, and all of the transitional steps in between," said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

Details have yet to be worked out, but if successful, the program could be expanded throughout the state, Mersereau said.

"There is a high demand for these types of services and this collaboration with the Department of Health positions our hospital to

be a part of that solution," said Brian Cunningham,

Wahiawa General Hospital's CEO.


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