Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Department of Health delays in payment not unusual

Yesterday's story in the Honolulu Advertiser Health workers stiffed by state was dismaying because it brought flashbacks of the Felix Consent Decree days when the Department of Health's disregard for the material needs (e.g., need to pay for food, rent) of mental health workers threatened services to the children. One of the failures of the decade-long legal process was that it allowed the state's misdeeds to continue without consequence.

I was one of many people who had the opportunity to participate in the "Service Testing" program developed by Dr. Ivor Groves, the Felix court monitor. The process involved interviewing the Felix child, the parents, teachers, psychologists and other professionals involved with the child's education or care. I was assigned a child on Kauai and arranged to fly there and do the interviews.

There was no problem interviewing the family or school staff, but I couldn't get hold of the psychologists. At that time, services were provided through the Mokihana Project and paid for by the Department of Health. Speaking to psychologists and staff at the project, I finally was able to link up with one of the child's psychologists. I spoke with him--he was at the airport, about to fly off to the Mainland to take another job. He told me he hadn't been paid in months.

As it turned out, the DOH failed to pay Mokihana substantial amounts of money. My memory is that it was someplace between one and three million dollars. Without that money, Mokihana, in turn, could not pay its contracted professionals.

Now, that's a great way to reduce the number of professionals available to serve the children and in the end save a bundle of money, but it is clearly unfair to both the children and the professionals involved. Many had their credit ratings destroyed because of mounting bills. Many had to leave the island and had no plan to return and be abused by the DOH again.

The Felix wars are over, but the flashbacks continue. It seems that the DOH is still not impressed with the need to pay mental health workers on time.

There's no excuse, and in my view there should be personal consequences for DOH staff who neglected to make arrangements to pay for the contracts that were signed.


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