HONOLULU (KHON2) — Police continue to address homelessness and mental health issues. Lawmakers and local organizations are now calling for aggressive solutions.
For years, the Honolulu Police Department has reported an increase in mental health-related calls.
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Lawmakers now want a bill [HB1175] Provide additional training to police officers who deal with homeless people who suffer from behavioral health problems.
Rep. John Mizuno [D]the chairman of the Social Welfare Committee said he was in favor of the bill.
“when [police] A better understanding of a person with mental illness, mental illness, and/or drug addiction can get that person where they need to be,” Mizuno said.
The invoice description states:
“County police should work with the Department of Health and the University of Hawaii to provide training to officers who come into contact with individuals experiencing behavioral health problems, including substance use, or mental health problems. Adequate funding for coordinated joint activities such as training, referrals to service providers and technical assistance.”
“We’ve changed the mental health system from incarcerating people with mental illness to moving them to the other end of the spectrum, which is a lot of our people out on the streets. explained the executive director of Partners in Care Oahu. Continuum of Care Laura Thielen. “And while they’re not breaking the law, they can be dangerous to themselves and others.
According to recent statistics, 22% of Oahu’s 3,951 homeless are  suffer from mental illness.
Thielen said training police to recognize and escalate situations involving mentally ill people is just one piece of the puzzle.
“We want to make mental health services more accessible so that people don’t have to send people through the justice system to get help,” she explained.
As it stands, many will soon be back on the streets if they are not breaking the law.
“As a state, we don’t have law enforcement or other drop-off centers where anyone can come and drop someone off at any time,” explained Department of Health Amy Curtis, administrator of the Adult Mental Health Division.
It is hoped that once the Günsberg building at Kaneohe State Hospital is renovated, it can be used to stabilize people in need.
But Curtis said providing care for the mentally ill and homeless is not as easy as it sounds.
“How can we convince the Supreme Court so that it can best help those in need of care,” Curtis added.
House Bill 1175 passed its first reading and was referred to the Health and Homeless and Welfare Committees.
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Mizuno said he was optimistic. Even if he had to change it into the pilot program, he said it could have a positive impact on everyone involved.