Monday, December 28, 2009


The Lingle who stole Christmas

by Larry Geller


(Why is this Grinch smiling??)

Molokai took a double whack from the Lingle budget-cutting axe this weekend. Without public hearings, the Governor is laying off the entire staff of the Molokai Clubhouse, one person. This will close the facility, which was just renovated at a cost of $100,000 donated by Metro Honolulu Rotary, and which serves more than 30 people on the island.

On top of that, the Grinch Lingle has made 30% cuts to the staffing at Kalaupapa, which could disable the facility and break a pledge to the remaining Hansen’s Disease patients.

Isn’t it strange to say that everyone must share the burden of budget cuts while completely eliminating programs? In the case of the Molokai Clubhouse, this is a costly mistake that should be reversed. Costly in terms of health and perhaps even lives.

Both of these actions are aimed at the most vulnerable in our population, and caring citizens of Hawaii should not allow them to go forward.

Molokai Clubhouse

Hawaii has already cut back as much as 75% of its adult mental health services according to some estimates. This has left many consumers without the supports they previously depended upon, and made them more reliant on the surviving programs. The network of Clubhouses is part of that community system.

It’s one thing to reduce services, but Lingle’s cuts are pulling the supports completely out for those who have relied on the Molokai Clubhouse.

A Clubhouse, according to the Department of Health’s own webpage, is

A unique, voluntary, member-driven psychosocial rehabilitation program for adults who experience the challenges of mental illness.  Within a supportive environment, program participants (members) are offered a multitude of services to improve the quality of their lives through meaningful work, positive relationships, and gainful employment.  Members can build on their strengths and abilities to acquire or improve skills needed to reach their individual goals and aspirations…. 

The Clubhouses help consumers stay regular on their meds and often care for their nutrition.

Keep in mind that those who depend on the Molokai Clubhouse may already have lost most or all of the services they had received from the DOH. They receive lunch there, training, and assistance they need to remain stable.

It’s predictable that deprived of support, some consumers may decompensate. Of course, the state will have to pay for hospitalizations or for the police, but there could be lives at stake as well.

Kalaupapa — Breaking Hawaii’s compact with Hansen’s Disease patients

In a July 22, 2009 letter, Governor Lingle assured Sen. J. Kalani English that:

Please be assured that we will not make cuts that would jeopardize the health and safety of the community.

This Christmas, we find that Lingle has made cuts that do just that. It is sad that this action is being taken so quickly after Father Damien, who ministered to patients at Kalaupapa, has been elevated to sainthood.

The Wikipedia notes that Kalaupapa was effectively a prison for Hansen’s disease patients who were exiled to that remote community, and that intervention exacted a promise from the state:

Shortly before the end of mandatory isolation in 1969, the State Legislature considered closing the facility in its entirety. Intervention by interested persons such as entertainer Don Ho and TV newsman Don Picken resulted in allowing the residents to remain there for life. The opponents to closure pointed out that, although there were no active cases of leprosy in existence, many of the residents were physically scarred by the disease to an extent which would make their integration into mainstream society difficult if not impossible.

Hawaii owes its remaining Hansen’s disease patients, all kupuna now, big time. The least the state can do is honor its commitment to maintain them in Kalaupapa.

Hawaii has the dubious distinction of being probably the only state to cut off electricity, water and medication to patients in a hospital. At least, I could find no similar situation in this country where that has happened. The hospital was Hale Mohalu, a residential treatment facility for Hansen's disease patients in Pearl City. It was not so long ago: 1983. The Department of Health wanted to move those patients out of there, and withholding medical aid is how they did it (the state tried the same tactic in 1978 but was enjoined by a federal judge). As the 9th Circuit later noted:

…the inpatient residents remaining at Hale Mohalu were among the more elderly, afflicted, and crippled of the leprosy population.

By withholding medication from patients, Hawaii’s Department of Health committed a breach of medical ethics that has never been dealt with adequately.

At least, they still have Kalaupapa. Or do they? The state is acting as though it is trying to close the facility. As with the Molokai Clubhouse, the Governor unilaterally cut jobs.

After cuts, only two people are left to do all the laundry, care for patients, clean facilities including the care home, visitor’s quarters (due to the isolation visitors need rooms to stay over), McVeigh Hall, and Vets Quarters. This is more than two people can deal with.

There is only one guy left to move all the trash, do yard work on the extensive facility, and take care of the landfill. How long will he last?

If there are further cutbacks, nutrition will suffer. Residents may be forced to eat sandwiches for each meal three days a week. It’s that close to disaster.

During Father Damien’s canonization proceedings, Lingle talked about what a special place Kalaupapa was. She needs to think about the people who are cared for there, not just the place. Despite her July assurances to Sen. J. Kalani English, her cuts are indeed at the point of jeopardizing health and safety.

Lingle’s Budget Bombs hurt the most vulnerable

General Electric’s former CEO Jack Welch was called "neutron Jack" for his practice of eliminating employees while leaving buildings intact, like a neutron bomb. 

Linda Lingle’s budget bombs eliminate employees, but it’s more than just jobs that are lost. The newly renovated Molokai Clubhouse and Kalaupapa facilities will remain, but the people they serve, among Hawaii’s most vulnerable, are being injured by her uncaring actions. Are there alternatives? Sure.

What you can do

Activists are asking that people call the Governor at 586-0034 and ask her not to shut down the Molokai Clubhouse.

You could try that, but it might do more good to call or email your local newspaper or TV station. The numbers are in the phone book or Google has them. Place a couple of calls and help save these facilities. Ask for the city desk or news desk. Tell them to get a reporter on it right away. Call KHON, KITV, the Advertiser, the Star-Bulletin, Maui News. Make a fuss. Help right a wrong.

This governor doesn’t mind cutting 94% of the Office of Elections budget or withholding money for kupuna services like Meals on Wheels. Your dime is better spent calling the press and getting them on this case. Know a blogger? Ask them to put the buzz on this.

Honolulu Metro Rotary cared enough to raise $100,000 for the Molokai Clubhouse, a very generous commitment to the people of Molokai. Help make their investment worthwhile with your phone calls.



Larry, what part or any of the Hawaii state budget goes to support the Hawaii National Guard in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait or wherever?

Larry, thank you for staying on the ball with so many important issues. This governor is just a very unqualified manager, and in times as these we need a very experienced person. I will do my part to help this cause. I am glad that you have this blog.
Happy New Year!!

You ask a very good question. When I looked at the budget bill for the last session, I didn't see anything that popped up as supporting the war, though I wasn't specifically looking for something like that. The budget is on the Capitol website. It probably has supporting documents, or they would be available as UIPA requests (public document requests).

I wonder how one would allocate anything budgeted for the Hawaii National Guard to the part they might play in the wars? Do they get federal funds? Just asking out loud.

I'm wondering who could answer this question. Maybe General Lee...

Thanks for posting it, an answer would be interesting to have.

AB (Anonymous 9:18), thanks very much for your support. I understand the calls are being made, which is just what we need. Your call will also help.

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Requiring those Captcha codes at least temporarily, in the hopes that it quells the flood of comment spam I've been receiving.

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