City aims to help mentally ill, addicted homeless

The City and County of Honolulu has launched a new pilot program to help some of the homeless who are most resistant to seek help.

Officials say those who suffer from mental illness and addiction are less inclined to seek treatment or help.

The new Outreach Navigation Program launched this month and provides psychiatric and legal services for those who can’t make proper decisions for themselves.

“It’s hard for those who don’t want to consent to assistance either they don’t know they need assistance or they just don’t want assistance,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

The program provides treatment through the use of guardianship and someone else consenting for them to get things like medication.

“If any of you wonder why a mentally ill patient is released from the emergency room the day after or why they riddle the streets yelling and screaming at people at the top of their lungs, or even worse, they’re left alone to sleep in their poop and pee for weeks on end it’s because they have the right to make their own decisions about treatment,” said Connie Mitchell, Institute for Human Services executive director. “But how can somebody be considered to have the capacity to make a decision when they might have maggots coming out of their wounds?”

The program also aims at court-ordered treatment.

The city has put forth $500,000, most of the money will be aimed at psychiatric care while another portion will be for lawyers to convince a judge someone should receive treatment involuntarily.

“While most Americans and people in Hawaii live to be 70 or 80 years old, the average life of someone who is homeless on our streets is 53 years old, that is unacceptable and they are part of our community,” Mayor Caldwell said.

Officials say the program will receive tips via HPD or community members who know people who are in need of help.

“We’ve helped a lot of people in the last year, over 30 of them really regain some of their life to get in touch with reality through the miracle of medication and treatment,” Mitchell said.

The funds are only for the year, if the program works, the administration will ask for more money from the City Council.

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