HONOLULU (KHON2) — Police continue to deal with homelessness and mental health issues. Now, lawmakers and local organizations are pushing for proactive solutions.

For years, the Honolulu Police Department has reported an uptick in mental health related calls.

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Now, lawmakers are pushing for a bill [HB1175] to provide additional training for officers who deal with homeless suffering from behavioral health issues.

Rep. John Mizuno [D], Chair of the Human Services Committee, said he’s in favor of the bill.

“When [police] understand better about people with mental conditions, mental illness and/or drug addiction, they’re better able to to get that person to where he or she needs to be,” Mizuno said.

The description for the bill states it:

“Requires county police departments to provide training, in collaboration with the Department of Health and University of Hawaii, to officers having contact with individuals experiencing homelessness, behavioral health issues including substance use or mental health issues. Appropriate funds for coordinated and collaborative activities including training, referrals to service providers and technical assistance.”

“We’ve transformed the mental health system from incarcerating anyone who has a mental illness to go into the other end of the spectrum, which is a lot of our folks are out there on the streets,” explained Executive Director of Partners in Care Oahu Continuum of Care Laura Thielen. “And, although they’re not breaking laws, they they may be a danger to themselves or others.”

Recent statistics show that out of the 3,951 homeless on Oahu, twenty-two percent [742] suffer from a mental illness.

Thielen said training police to recognize and deescalate situations involving someone who is mentally ill is just one piece of the puzzle.

“We want to make mental health services more available so that we don’t need to send people through the justice system in order to get help,” she explained.

As it stands, many people end up right back on the street, if they haven’t broken the law.

“As a state, we don’t have that anytime drop-off center where law enforcement can come or others and drop somebody off,” explained Amy Curtis, Dept. of Health the adult mental health division administrator.

The hope is once the Guensberg building at the Kaneohe State Hospital is renovated it can be used to stabilize people who need support.

But, Curtis said providing care for someone who is mentally ill and homeless is not as simple as it sounds.

“How do we do it in a way that, you know, the Supreme Court will be okay with and what’s going to most help the individuals that need that care,” added Curtis.

House Bill 1175 passed its first reading and was referred to the Health and Homelessness committee and the Human Services committee.

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Mizuno said he is optimistic; and even if they have to change it to a pilot program, he said it could have a positive impact for everyone involved.