Hawaii State Hospital Poised to Expand and Revitalize Mental Health Services

Posted on Apr 30, 2015 in Ola Lokahi

Every day, the Hawaii State Hospital team of healthcare professionals delivers valuable mental health services for those who are often shunned by others. They provide care and treatment services to patients with medically complex conditions, including chronic schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorders and bipolar disorder. Services include psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, relaxation techniques and cognitive therapy, dog training and gardening along with other methods aimed at training patients for activities of daily living.

As with other areas of medicine, the quality of mental health services has significantly improved and matured over the years. Despite the advancements in treatment and care, the stigma associated with mental health has not changed. This may be one of the reasons funding for new, expanded facilities has not kept pace with the state’s growing need for mental health services.

The healthcare professionals at the Hawaii State Hospital do their best to accommodate the ever-increasing patient volume, often having to work overtime to provide adequate coverage to meet the 24/7 needs of patients.

“The underlying cause of these work conditions has been our high patient census, which continues to exceed the number of our licensed beds,” explained William May, administrator of the Hawaii State Hospital.  “The hospital was built as a 178-bed inpatient facility to treat severely chronic mentally ill and acute-criminally committed patients, but census figures today have grown to more than 200 patients and continue to rise.”

The court system refers patients for forensic evaluations and care and custody to the Hawaii State Hospital. By law, the Department of Health must accept them. For many of these patients, Hawaii State Hospital is a “safety-net” hospital with nowhere else to turn to find the comparable quality of care they need.

Hawaii State Hospital has a long history in the Islands, dating back to 1932 when the original hospital in Kaneohe was constructed in the Territory of Hawaii. Today, many of the original structures on the campus are still in use; however, the mental health needs of the community have far outgrown the physical facilities.

“We have room to grow on the campus, and are ready to revitalize inpatient mental healthcare for Hawaii residents,” May said. “However, this expansion is contingent upon receiving funding from the State of Hawaii and through partnerships with private sources.

The Hawaii Department of Health is prepared to focus on the solution to this ongoing problem, and begin to make progress in addressing this issue that affects everyone in the community. Plans to demolish the Goddard Building, one of the largest and oldest buildings on the campus, are poised to begin once state funding is secured. Eventually, this would be reconstructed into a modern and secure 144-bed hospital facility, representing a small but important step to help meet the current needs of the community.