Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 8, 2010

Contract keeps Moloka'i mental health center open

By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Staff Writer

A last-minute contract extension for the lone Adult Mental Health Division social worker on Moloka'i will keep the island's clubhouse for about 30 people with severe mental illnesses open.

Clubhouse members were warned the center could close if money wasn't approve to extend the contract. Health Department officials got approval Dec. 29 to extend the contract, which expired New Year's Eve, said Wayne Law, state community mental health centers administrator.

The extension runs through June 2011.

Law said the extension approval will ensure the clubhouse remains open for mentally ill people on Moloka'i. The center is the only resource of its kind on the island, where clients can go for day treatment, along with vocational and other programs.

The clubhouse scare comes as the state is also asking clubhouses statewide to figure out where they can save money.

But Michelle Hill, the deputy director of behavioral health at DOH, said there are no plans to close any of the centers, which are seen as one of the most effective tools for helping the severely mentally ill stay on a treatment plan while gaining confidence and friends.

There are 10 clubhouses statewide that serve about 1,100 people.

"We are still committed" to clubhouses, Hill said this week, adding that she has asked clubhouses to look for potential money savings, without cutting back on programs. "We do need to look at clubhouse operations and make them more sustainable."

Many clubhouse members say they go to the centers to stay active and to improve their lives. Andrea Dudoit, 36, who attends Moloka'i clubhouse programs, said the center is a "positive place."

She added that in the wider community, she feels ostracized because of her mental illness. "The community here, they look at us differently," said Dudoit, who is diagnosed with major depression, anti-social behavior and other disorders.

In addition to operating the clubhouse, the only Moloka'i AMHD social worker helps on case management for about 70 people who are severely mentally ill. The Health Department also flies in a social worker once a week for case management. A psychiatrist is flown in three times a month, Law said.

Advocates say the close call with the clubhouse shows how fragile the safety net for the mentally ill is on Moloka'i. The island recently lost two AMHD social workers, one of whom was laid off.

The other resigned, Law said.

Health Department officials also acknowledged that Moloka'i staffing is a concern, but said it's difficult to find people on-island who meet job requirements or find workers willing to move there.

Law said he is seeking approval to fill the second on-island social worker position to replace the social worker who resigned.