Elderly couple temporarily reunited in care home pending outcome of lawsuit

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An elderly couple has been reunited in a nursing care home — if only temporarily.

In a joint statement issued Tuesday by the state and counsel for plaintiffs Noboru and Elaine Kawamoto, the couple are back to living together “pending determination by the Court of the constitutionality of certain Hawaii state statutes and administrative rules applicable to community care foster family homes.”

Noboru Kawamoto is 95 and a World War II veteran and member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and his wife Elaine is 89.

The Kawamotos were staying at an assisted living facility when his health started to deteriorate. Because he needs constant care, he’s now living in a care home in Kaneohe, but state law prevents his wife from joining him.

Hawaii state law limits community care foster family homes, which are two- or three-bed nursing facilities that provide 24-hour care to resident patients, to just one non-Medicaid patient per home. Because the Kawamotos are not Medicaid patients, the facility was only able to take Noboru.

A civil right lawsuit was filed back in late June against Gov. David Ige, Hawaii State Director of Health Virginia Pressler, and state Human Services Director Rachel Wong for enforcing laws forced the Kawamotos to live in separate nursing care facilities. The lawsuit alleges the Kawamotos’s fundamental right to family integrity is being violated, which is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

The Kawamotos’s counsel expect to file motions seeking summary adjudication of this lawsuit by United States District Court Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi to resolve this case.

Later in the day, House Vice Speaker John Mizuno released a statement about the case.

Mizuno, who authored a bill last session that did not pass specifically related to the Kawamotos’s case, allowing two private pay clients to live together in a community care foster home (CCFFH), said “I am elated for the Kawamoto couple. I always felt that a state regulation should not deny a couple married for 68 years, nor any married couple, the right to live with each other.

“This is not new to us at the Legislature, because in 2009, I wrote the final contents of SB190, which easily passed into law to allow a Hilo couple, the Kaides, the right to reside in the same CCFFH.”

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