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Hospice of Hilo to Host Free Six-Week Grief Support Group

Hospice of Hilo will be offering a free, six-week adult grief support group called, “The Healing Journey”. The group is open to anyone in the community who has suffered a loss. Meetings will be at Hospice of Hilo’s office complex located at 1011 Waiānuenue Ave, Hilo, on Wednesdays from 10:00am to 11:30 am from September 6 through October 11.

“Participants are comforted by the validation of their grief and the knowledge that they are not alone.” said Hospice of Hilo Community Bereavement Counselor and group leader Cathy Hough. “To light memorial candles for their loved ones, write in journals, and to learn about the ways that grief ‘shows up’ empowers them to take charge and navigate their personal journey of loss.”

Hospice of Hilo

A recent participant explained, “Cathy’s commitment and pride in her work are evident. I think anyone could benefit from this class since loss in its many forms is universally experienced.” Healing Journey attendees have commented that the group was very helpful to them, finding it to have a kind and loving atmosphere in which to share their grief. “I use the coping mechanisms provided to this day because my grief journey is an on-going process.”

To participate in the Healing Journey six-week adult support group, please RSVP no later than Wednesday, August 30 to Cathy Hough at (808) 961-7309.

Gabbard-Backed Bill to Expand, Extend GI Bill Signed Into Law

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), co-chair of the Post 9/11 Veterans Caucus, released the statement below after legislation she helped introduce to improve and extend GI Bill education benefits for veterans, their surviving spouses and dependents was signed into law today.

The legislation passed both the House and Senate unanimously, and is widely supported by veteran and education advocacy organizations, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the Enlisted Association of The National Guard of The United States, the American Council on Education, the Association of American Universities, the STEM Education Coalition, and others.

“Every single day, roughly 500 veterans are transitioning from military life to civilian life, joining the more than 2.9 million veterans who have returned home since 9/11 alone. We have a responsibility to ensure that our troops and veterans are set up for success in the 21st century economy when they lay down the uniform and transition to civilian life. This bipartisan legislation enhances existing benefits, expands eligibility, eliminates bureaucratic barriers, and empowers our troops, veterans and their dependents to get the quality education they’ve earned and deserve. More than 7,000 Hawaiʻi veterans used their earned education benefit to open the door to new opportunities for them and their families last year, and this law will help our next generation of service members to further build on this progress,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Background: The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 (H.R.3218) will apply to all new enlistees in the military, and will:

  • Remove time restrictions to use the GI Bill, enabling future eligible recipients to use their GI bill benefits for their entire lives, as opposed to the current 15-year timeline
  • Simplify the benefit for future service members by consolidating the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill into a single program over time, which would reduce the VA’s administrative costs
  • Provide significant increases in GI Bill funding for Reservists and Guardsmen, dependents, surviving spouses and surviving dependents
  • Provide 100% GI Bill eligibility to Post 9/11 Purple Heart recipients
  • Restore eligibility for service members whose school closes in the middle of a semester and create a pilot program that would pay for veterans to take certain high technology courses.

Registration Opens for Hawaii LifeSmarts Competition

The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) Office of the Securities Commissioner announces the start of the 2017-2018 Hawaii LifeSmarts Competition.

LifeSmarts is a free, national educational program that teaches students critical life skills in five key areas: Personal Finance, Consumer Rights & Responsibilities, Health & Safety, the Environment, and Technology through online quizzes and in-person competitions.  Teams must consist of one adult coach/teacher and at least 4 students.

The online portion of the competition will be open from Tuesday, August 1, 2017, to Friday, December 1, 2017 at 7 p.m. HST.  The four highest scoring high school teams will be invited to compete at the state championship competition in Honolulu on February 3, 2018.  The winning team will represent Hawaii at the national LifeSmarts competition, scheduled for April 21-24, 2018 in San Diego, CA.

“We are proud to be a sponsor of Hawaii LifeSmarts and we encourage teams to sign up,” said Securities Commissioner Ty Nohara.

Middle school or “Junior Varsity” (JV) teams with students in grades 6-8 may participate in an online-only competition from August 1, 2017 to January 31, 2018.  Winners of the JV competition will be recognized online.

For more information about the Hawaii LifeSmarts program, please visit www.lifesmartshawaii.com or contact the LifeSmarts State Coordinator, Theresa Kong Kee, at 587-7400 or tkongkee@dcca.hawaii.gov.

The Hawaii LifeSmarts program is locally sponsored by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) Office of the Securities Commissioner, in partnership with the Hawaii Credit Union League, and is run by the National Consumers League. Over 1,300 local students have participated in Hawaii LifeSmarts since 2005.  Local businesses interested in becoming a sponsor of the Hawaii LifeSmarts program are welcome to contact the State Coordinator for more information.

Hawaii Anti-Bullying Campaign Marks Its 10th Year

The E Ola Pono campaign celebrated its 10th year, and was created as a cultural response to bullying in the schools. Student groups are encouraged to actively Grow Pono – to foster respect and harmony. Six schools in three divisions received recognition and monetary awards for their campaigns.

The E Ola Pono campaign encourages youth groups to promote peace, pono and respect at their schools and communities through student–led campaigns.  Photo Credit: E Ola Pono

The E Ola Pono campaign, which encourages youth groups to promote peace, pono and respect at their schools and communities through student–led campaigns, celebrated its 10th year with winning projects from across the state. The campaign was created as a cultural response to bullying in the schools. Student groups are encouraged to actively Grow Pono – to foster respect and harmony.

“This campaign is an excellent example of showcasing student voice and leadership,” said Superintendent Christina Kishimoto. “Congratulations to the winning schools and all of the entrants who put a lot of thought and time into these projects that promote positivity within our schools and communities.”

Six schools in three divisions received recognition and monetary awards for their campaigns.

Elementary Division:

First Place: Na Wai Ola P ublic Charter School (PCS), Mountain View, Hawaiʻi Island – Na Wai Ola PCS’ māla (garden) program teaches students how to grow food, medicines and plants with aloha and respect. Shari Frias, the agricultural Science teacher and advisor for their pono campaign, observed that students who have been at their school for a few years have a personal connection and understanding of their māla, the environment and themselves. The older students have developed a strong connection to place. She tells her students that, “every plant in our māla has a place, and kulelana just like you. If we care about ourselves the way we care for our plants we will be pono, and balanced.”

Second Place: Aliʻiolani Elementary School, Honolulu, Oʻahu – The STAR Student Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) program at Aliʻiolani Elementary promoted kindness recognition. Every student at Ali’iolani wrote down a time when they were kind to someone else and the Wall of Kindness was created. Campaign advisor, Tim Hosoda, shared, “In most programs the teachers do the recognizing, but with STAR Student, the students are the ones that get to do that. We noticed that students behave better because the know their peers are always watching them.”

Middle/Intermediate Division:

First Place: Ewa Makai Middle School, Ewa Beach, Oʻahu – Ewa Makai Middle initiated a campaign to foster pono with aloha with an emphasis on morality and ethics.

Ewa Makai Middle initiated a campaign to foster pono with aloha with an emphasis on morality and ethics. Photo Credit: E Ola Pono

Through various activities like Cheer Off and No One Eats Alone Day, the students formed a strong bond. Vanessa Ching, campaign advisor, shared, “The students have embraced the true meaning of pono, which is respect for self and others, and doing what is right even when no one is around. We now realize that it is both an individual and team effort to take action and influence positive behaviors and respectful actions in our community.”

Second Place: Kailua Intermediate, Kailua, Oʻahu – Seventh and eighth grade students at Kailua Intermediate focused on how to mālama the Hamakua Marsh and the native birds in this sanctuary by watching and monitoring the birds, cleaning up trash dumped in the marsh and taking water samples. Campaign advisor Kimberly Tangaro, a science teacher at Kailua intermediate, shared, “As participants we learned how we can make small yet significant changes to help promote the health of the marsh. Our school culture was powerfully and positively impacted by learning about this unique and special place we call home or our community.”

High School Division:

First Place (tie): Farrington High School, Honolulu, Oʻahu – The Friends Program at Farrington High focused on the national “#BETHECHANGE” and “Spread the Word to End the “R” Word” initiatives because they wanted their school, students, and community to understand that they will all rise as one. Evelyn Utai, advisor of the Friends Program, shared, “The students in our Friends Program are educating their friends and classmates on what it means to be a caring individual. We promote that we are #ONEGOV” at Farrington High. It’s an amazing feeling to have my students walk through the halls and feel that they belong in the school.”

First Place (tie): Hāna High & Elementary School, Hāna, Maui – Hāna High’s ninth graders chose the topic of Environmental Sustainability. Students focused on educating the younger generation by passing down the teachings of their kupuna. Campaign advisor Angela Chronis, Hāna’s Social Studies teacher shared, “Both keiki and kupuna were excited to help take part in our campaign. After participating in E Ola Pono, students have a greater understanding and appreciation of the many steps it takes to launch a successful campaign.”

For more information about the E Ola Pono campaign and the 2016-17 winners, click here.

First Case of Rat Lungworm Disease on Oahu in 2017

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) confirmed one new case of rat lungworm disease in an Oahu resident. This is the first case of rat lungworm disease contracted on Oahu in 2017, bringing the statewide total of confirmed cases to 16 for this year. The adult case is currently hospitalized and the department confirmed their illness late on Tuesday afternoon.

The Oahu resident began experiencing symptoms consistent with rat lungworm disease in July. DOH staff from the Vector Control Program and Disease Investigation Branch started conducting onsite property assessments this morning in East Oahu. Vector Control staff surveyed for slug, snail and rat activity. Current findings do not show evidence of slugs or semi-slugs nearby. The source of the individual’s infection is still unknown at this time, but DOH will continue investigations based on the information gathered today. The last reported case of rat lungworm disease on Oahu was in 2010.

“This is a serious disease that can be acquired on any of our islands because slugs and snails throughout the state carry the parasite responsible for the illness,” said Keith Kawaoka, deputy director of Environmental Health. “This is a grim reminder that we all need to take precautions when working in our gardens and on farms, and eliminate slugs, snails and rats from our communities to reduce the risks posed by this parasitic disease.”

DOH recently announced plans to ramp up efforts to prevent rat lungworm disease statewide. This includes efforts to increase public outreach and education throughout the state—a top initiative identified by the Governor’s Rat Lungworm Disease Joint Task Force, which was convened in 2016. The Joint Task Force is comprised of local experts in medical, scientific, environmental, and public health fields from across the state.The public is urged to take the following precautions to prevent rat lungworm disease:

  • Carefully inspect, wash and store produce in sealed containers, regardless of whether it came from a local retailer, farmer’s market, or backyard garden.
  • All fruits and vegetables should be washed and rubbed under running water, especially leafy greens, in order to remove any tiny slugs or snails.
    Controlling snail, slug, and rat populations is one of the most important steps in fighting the spread of rat lungworm disease.
  • Eliminate slugs, snails, and rats around properties, and especially around home gardens.
  • Farmers as well as food handlers and processors should increase diligence in controlling slugs, snails, and rats on the farm.

Rat lungworm disease (angiostrongyliasis) is contracted when a person becomes infected with the parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis. This often happens when a person accidentally consumes raw or undercooked infected slugs, snails, freshwater shrimp, land crabs or frogs. The most common symptoms include severe headaches and neck stiffness, but symptoms may vary widely among cases. The most serious cases experience neurological problems, pain and severe disability.

More information about the signs and symptoms of rat lungworm disease may be found at http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/disease_listing/rat-lungworm-angiostrongyliasis/ and https://health.hawaii.gov/docd/files/2017/01/RLD-rackcard-version1_06152017.pdf. The first of a series of public service announcements about rat lungworm disease prevention is posted on the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s website at http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/blog/main/rat-lungworm-information/.

Medical Marijuana Dispensary Allowed to Open on Oahu

The Hawai‘i Department of Health issued a formal notice to proceed to Aloha Green LLC today after the dispensary completed laboratory testing requirements and passed its final onsite inspection. Aloha Green is the second licensed medical cannabis dispensary in the state, and the first on O‘ahu, to receive approval to begin sales of medical cannabis to registered patients and their caregivers.

The licensed retail center for Aloha Green is at the Interstate Building at 1314 South King Street in Honolulu. The retail center is licensed to begin selling dried medical cannabis flowers when it opens to registered patients.

“The opening of a licensed dispensary on O‘ahu is a major milestone for the more than 5,000 qualified patients and caregivers in Honolulu,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “Our staff continues to work with all the licensees as they build their facilities and business operations in compliance with county and state laws to ensure product and patient safety.”

The rigorous dispensary approval processes to open and begin selling medical cannabis are based on the requirements of Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Chapter 329D and Hawai‘i Administrative Rules Chapter 11-850. Dispensaries are required to comply with all state and county, health, safety, and sanitation regulations, and are subject to unannounced inspections by DOH.

Registered patients and their caregivers may purchase up to four ounces of medical cannabis during a 15 consecutive day period and purchase a maximum of eight ounces over a 30 consecutive day period. All use of medical cannabis must be on private property and may not be used in a car while on the road, at work, at the beach, on hiking trails, or in any other public space. It is illegal to use or possess medical cannabis on any federally owned property such as military installations and national parks. When bringing medical cannabis home after purchasing it from a dispensary, the medical cannabis must be in a sealed container and not visible to the public.

There are eight licensed dispensaries in Hawai‘i. There are three on O‘ahu: Aloha Green Holdings Inc.; Mānoa Botanicals LLC; and TCG Retro Market 1, LLC dba Cure Oahu. There are two in Hawai‘i County: Hawaiian Ethos LLC and Lau Ola LLC. Two on Maui: Maui Wellness Group, LLC dba Maui Grown Therapies and Pono Life Sciences Maui, LLC; and one on Kaua‘i, Green Aloha, Ltd. These dispensaries are now at different stages of development by the licensees, and at varying stages of the approval process.

Hawaii’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Lets Survivors Know They ARE NOT Alone – The Mālama Kākou Project

Attorney General Doug Chin and the state of Hawaii’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (Hawaii SAKI) multidisciplinary team today announced the launch of a Public Service Announcement (PSA) video under Project Mālama Kākou.

Project Mālama Kākou was created as a result of Act 207 (2016), passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor David Ige, which assembled a statewide multidisciplinary team of victim services providers, crime lab personnel, police officials, and prosecutors to comprehensively reform the testing of sexual assault kits in Hawaii in a caring and victim-centered manner.

Attorney General Chin said: “This public service announcement is an important next step for reaching out to sexual assault survivors. We recently launched the Project Mālama Kākou website to let survivors know they are not alone and there is information and support available for them.”

The PSA will be hosted on the Attorney General’s Project Mālama Kākou website at ag.hawaii.gov/hisaki and will be distributed using social media, email and more. The video features Attorney General Chin representing law enforcement and Ms. Chelsea Crapser, Director of Crisis and Prevention Services of the YWCA of Kauai, representing victim support providers.

A joint statement from Chelsea Crapser, Director of Crisis and Prevention Services at the YWCA of Kauai and Renae Hamilton-Cambeilh, Executive Director of the YWCA of Kauai said, “As service providers, it is our sincere hope that every individual knows there are support services and resources available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Mālama Kākou Project is the result of collaboration to better serve sex assault survivors by implementing a new process for statewide testing of Sex Assault Kits. This process allows police, prosecutors, advocates and victim counselors to work together to provide comprehensive support. We are grateful for the collaborative spirit of this group, but most of all, we acknowledge the strength of every survivor who has come forward.”

Hawaii’s First Medical Cannabis Dispensary Opens Today

Maui Wellness Group, LLC dba Maui Grown Therapies is the first licensed medical cannabis dispensary in the state to receive the green light from the Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH) to begin selling medical cannabis to registered patients and their caregivers. The Department of Health issued a formal notice to proceed to Maui Grown Therapies today after the dispensary completed laboratory testing requirements and passed its final onsite inspection.

The licensed retail center for Maui Grown Therapies is located at 44 Pa‘a Street in Kahului, Maui. The dispensary will begin selling dried medical cannabis flowers when it opens to registered patients.

“This is an important day for qualified patients and caregivers on Maui who now have assurance the medical cannabis they purchase at Maui Grown Therapies has been thoroughly tested and is safe for them to use,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “Implementing a new health program is always challenging, and the dispensary program was no exception. With legal guidance from Department of the Attorney General, the DOH team paved the way for this new industry in Hawai‘i and has set a new standard for dispensary programs other states can emulate.”

The rigorous dispensary approval processes to open and begin selling medical cannabis are based on the requirements of Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Chapter 329D and Hawai‘i Administrative Rules Chapter 11-850. Dispensaries are required to comply with all state and county, health, safety, and sanitation regulations, and are subject to unannounced inspections by DOH.

Registered patients and their caregivers may purchase up to four ounces of medical cannabis during a 15 consecutive day period and purchase a maximum of eight ounces over a 30 consecutive day period. All use of medical cannabis must be on private property and may not be used in a car while on the road, at work, at the beach, on hiking trails, or in any other public space. It is illegal to use or possess medical cannabis on any federally owned property such as military installations and national parks. When bringing medical cannabis home after purchasing it from a dispensary, the medical cannabis must be in a sealed container and not visible to the public.

According to the StarAdvertiser:

Hawaii history will be made today when the first dispensary opens for business on Maui, nearly two decades after the state legalized medical marijuana.
Maui Grown Therapies, one of eight dispensary licensees, will begin at 11 a.m. the first legal sales of cannabis in the islands…

There are eight licensed dispensaries in Hawai‘i. There are three on O‘ahu: Aloha Green Holdings Inc.; Mānoa Botanicals LLC; and TCG Retro Market 1, LLC dba Cure Oahu. There are two in Hawai‘i County: Hawaiian Ethos LLC and Lau Ola LLC. Two on Maui: Maui Wellness Group, LLC dba Maui Grown Therapies and Pono Life Sciences Maui, LLC; and one on Kaua‘i, Green Aloha, Ltd. These dispensaries are now at different stages of development by the licensees, and at varying stages of the approval process.

Hawaii Receives Approximately $477,000 in Settlement with Drug Manufacturer

Attorney General Doug Chin announced today that Hawaii joined 29 states and the federal government last week in settling claims against Celgene Corporation (Celgene), a pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Celgene had permission from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market its drug Thalamid for skin conditions associated with leprosy and its drug Revlimid for transfusion induced anemia. This settlement resolves allegations that Celgene illegally marketed both drugs for cancer treatments that were unrelated to the skin conditions and anemia. Celgene’s promotions encouraged what the FDA considers “off label” uses without first securing FDA approval.

As a result of the settlement with Celgene, Hawaii will receive approximately $477,000. This money will be split between Hawaii’s MedQuest program and the Hawaii Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

Attorney General Chin said of the settlement, “Money from the settlement will help with further investigations and prosecutions of medical fraud in this state.”

Celgene’s alleged illegal marketing included monetary kickbacks to doctors, forged clinical studies and medical literature, and manipulated medical diagnostic codes in order to increase sales of Thalamid and Revlimid.

A National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units team participated in the settlement negotiations with Celgene on behalf of the states. It included representatives from the offices of the attorneys general for the states of California, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Hawaii Departments of Health and Human Services to Hold Job Fair Aug. 11 at State Capitol

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Human Services (DHS) will co-host a job fair on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hawaii State Capital chamber level (basement) on the mauka side. Admission is free and open to the public.

The job fair will have informational display tables staffed by employees from various DOH divisions and branches, including Adult Mental Health Division; Hawaii State Hospital and Environmental Resources Office; Child & Adolescent Mental Health Division; Developmental Disabilities Division; Alcohol & Drug Abuse Division; and Office of Health Care Assurance.

Various programs will be representing DHS. Managers and employees from the Benefits, Employment and Support Services Division, Statewide Branch; Social Services Division, Child Welfare Services Branch; Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; and the Hawaii Public Housing Authority will be on site to promote various employment opportunities with their programs.

For those seeking a new job or a career change, DOH is looking for qualified applicants for the following positions:

  • Accountant III
  • Clinical Psychologist 
  • Epidemiological Specialist IV 
  • Hospital Billing Clerk 
  • Human Resources Assistant III & IV 
  • Human Services Professional III, IV and V 
  • Information Technology Band A 
  • Janitor II 
  • Licensed Practical Nurse I and II,
  • Hospital & Mental Health 
  • Mental Health Supervisor II 
  • Occupational Therapist III 
  • Office Assistant II & III 
  • Para-Medical Assistant (Entry Level) 
  • Planner V
  • Program Specialist IV-VI 
  • Psychiatrist III, Inpatient, Outpatient 
  • Public Health Administrative Officer 
  • Registered Nurse III and IV 
  • Research Statistician 
  • Secretary II and III 
  • Social Worker IV

The following are positions available with DHS:

  • Assistant Chief Financial Officer (exempt) 
  • Chief Housing Planner (exempt) 
  • Eligibility Worker I, IV and V 
  • Housing Contract Specialist (exempt) 
  • Housing Compliance and Evaluation Specialist (exempt) 
  • Human Resources Assistant IV 
  • Human Services Professional II and III (Human Services/CWSB-Intake Unit, Shiftwork) 
  • Human Services Professional III and IV (Health and Human Services) 
  • Human Services Professional IV (Intake and Crisis Response Team) 
  • Office Assistant III 
  • Plumber I 
  • Project Engineer (exempt) 
  • Property Management and Maintenance Services Branch Chief (exempt)
  • Property Management Specialist (exempt) 
  • Public Housing Specialist I 
  • Public Housing Supervisor III, IV and V 
  • Social Service Aid III and Social Service Assistant IV 
  • Social Worker III (Human Services/CWSB-Intake Unit, Shiftwork) 
  • Social Worker III and IV (Health and Human Services) 
  • Social Worker IV (Intake and Crisis Response Team) 
  • Stores Clerk II (89-day hire) 
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist III and IV

The purpose of the job fair is to connect job seekers with potential employment opportunities within DOH and DHS—two of the larger state departments in Hawaii that employ 2,700 workers and 2,000 workers, respectively, on every major island.

“We offer a number of rewarding career opportunities in public service,” said Ian Greene, Chief of the DOH Human Resources Office Recruitment and Examination. “If you are a job seeker, the Hawaii Department of Health may be the perfect place for you. The work we do is very challenging and powerful. Every day we make a difference in the lives of the people of Hawaii.”

“Working for DHS gives you the opportunity to make a difference in Hawaii,” said DHS Director Pankaj Bhanot. “Our team touches Hawaii’s children, families and kupuna in ways that make impacts and could change the trajectories of their lives. We hope those with experience in the field and a passion for making a difference will join our team.”

DOH’s mission is to protect and improve the health and environment for all people in Hawaii. DOH employees ensure core public health functions and support programs such as health promotion, disease and injury prevention, disaster preparedness and emergency response, environmental health services, and other areas of public health.

DHS strives to provide timely, efficient and effective programs, services and benefits for the purpose of achieving the outcome of empowering Hawaii’s most vulnerable people; and to
expand their capacity for self-sufficiency, self-determination, independence, healthy choices, quality of life, and personal dignity.

The State of Hawaii offers many benefits to employees, including competitive salaries, career advancement, health and dental insurance, paid vacation and sick leave.

Visit the DOH and DHS websites at: http://health.hawaii.gov/employment/job-opportunities/ and http://humanservices.hawaii.gov/employment-opportunities/ for more information on the employment opportunities currently available with each department.

Applicants are also encouraged to visit the State Recruiting Office’s website at http://dhrd.hawaii.gov/job-seekers/ to learn more about civil service job opportunities that are currently available at other state departments and to complete an online application.

County, Social Services Agencies Move Homeless People to Temporary Shelter in Kona

The County of Hawai’i together with social services provider Hope Services have moved a group of homeless people from the Old Airport Park to temporary facilities on County property in Kona.

The one-acre property at Hale Kikaha is accommodating approximately 20 adults in facilities consisting of tents, portable toilets, a temporary water spigot and showers.

The move came as the County on Wednesday enforced a no-camping policy at the Old Airport Park, whereby all belongings and housing structures in the park were removed.  This was aimed at improving this facility as a community park.

Prior to Wednesday’s move, outreach workers from HOPE Services, Veterans Outreach, the West Hawai’i Health Clinic, Access Capabilities, County Parks and Recreation, Office of Housing and Community Development, the Mayor’s Office (Kona), and faith-based volunteers were able to find a limited number of spaces at other homeless shelters and relatives’ homes.

Available housing options were offered to the most vulnerable homeless people first, i.e., families, the elderly, chronically homeless, as well as those with substance abuse or mental health issues.

While the team of County and social services agencies tried to absorb the entire homeless population from Old Airport Park, the available housing inventory was insufficient.  Approximately 25 individuals remain without housing.  The County is working to increase the number of beds at the Hale Kikaha shelter, while exploring a permanent site to house the homeless population.

The Police Department will be monitoring to ensure that campers do not return to the park. The enforcement took place as the Department of Parks and Recreation gears up for clean-up efforts on Wednesday, August 9 and Thursday, August 10, 2017.

On Tuesday, Mayor Harry Kim issued an emergency proclamation under which zoning, building and fire codes were temporarily waived to enable the homeless people to be accommodated at the Hale Kikaha facility.

Hawaii Governor Announces Stepped Up Efforts to Prevent Rat Lungworm Disease and Expanded Role of Joint Task Force

Gov. David Y. Ige, together with the Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH) and the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) announced today the state’s plans to place a stronger emphasis on the prevention of rat lungworm disease.

This year, the state confirmed a total of 15 cases of the serious parasitic infection, which is the highest number of cases reported in the state over the last decade.

“We are bringing together local experts from relevant fields to increase public awareness, improve our response activities, and explore ways to control and treat the disease,” said Gov. Ige. “They will work together with the Joint Task Force we established last year to step up prevention efforts beyond Hawai‘i Island, where the first cases were reported.”Dr. Kenton Kramer, Associate Professor of the Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology with the University of Hawai‘i John A. Burns School of Medicine (UH-JABSOM), who is serving as Joint Task Force chair said, “The Joint Task Force to combat rat lungworm disease will reconvene in August. Experts from the medical, scientific, environmental, and public health communities will collaborate to develop guidelines for schools, farms, food establishments, physicians and other groups on best practices to prevent, control, and treat rat lungworm disease.”

The Joint Task Force, established in May 2016, consists of members from UH-JABSOM, Pacific Biosciences Research Center; The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at UH Hilo; HDOA’s Plant Industry and Quality Assurance Divisions; USDA Agriculture Research Service; Kaiser Permanente Hawaii; Hilo Medical Center; Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children; Hawaii County; and the DOH’s State Laboratories Division, District Health Offices of Hawaii Island, Maui, and Kaua‘i, Vector Control Branch, Safe Drinking Water Branch, Disease Outbreak Control Division, and Sanitation Branch.

Because of rising concerns over the recent increase in confirmed cases this year, the 2017 Hawai‘i State Legislature appropriated $1 million ($500,000 over two years) to the DOH to increase public education and improve control and prevention of rat lungworm disease. The funding will make possible a statewide media campaign in partnership with the Hawai‘i Association of Broadcasters to build public awareness of ways to prevent the spread of the parasitic disease.

Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler said, “We appreciate the Legislature’s support in allowing the state to accelerate our efforts on this important initiative. The funds will provide much needed resources for our public health communications efforts as well as strengthen our disease investigation and vector control measures for rat lungworm disease.”

In addition to a statewide public awareness campaign, the DOH will work in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of Hawai‘i, HDOA, and other agencies to conduct a targeted rat, slug and snail study to identify disease routes and provide data on disease risks from these vectors. A statewide study of this kind has never been conducted in Hawaii before because of limited resources. Findings from the study will guide vector control activities for rat lungworm prevention.

Funding from the Legislature will also support two temporary full-time staff positions to coordinate prevention efforts between county, state, federal, and private sector partners.

Currently, the DOH’s food safety inspectors and vector control staff are collaborating with HDOA to investigate any reports of produce shipments from any farmer or vendor (local or mainland) with an infestation of slugs or snails. If the shipment is traced to a local farm, inspectors work with the farmer to ensure proper pest reduction measures are implemented.

Rat lungworm disease is caused by a parasitic roundworm called Angiostrongylus cantonensis. The parasite can be passed from the feces of infected rodents to snails, slugs and certain other animals, which become intermediate hosts for the parasite. People can become infected when they consume infected raw or undercooked intermediate hosts (slugs, snails, freshwater prawns, frogs, crayfish, and crabs).

Although the rat lungworm parasite has been found in slugs and snails throughout the state, Hawai‘i Island has experienced the majority of the confirmed cases. Some infected people don’t show any symptoms or have mild symptoms. For others, the symptoms can be much more severe and debilitating, and can include headaches, stiffness of the neck, tingling or pain on the skin or in extremities, low-grade fever, nausea, and vomiting.

Sometimes, a temporary paralysis of the face may occur, as well as light sensitivity. This infection can also cause a rare and serious type of meningitis (eosinophilic meningitis).

To prevent the spread of rat lungworm infection, the public is urged to take these important steps:

  • Always practice safe eating habits by inspecting, thoroughly washing, and properly storing raw produce, especially leafy greens, regardless of where it came from, and/or cooking it properly to kill any parasites. Washing raw vegetables and fruits thoroughly under running water before eating not only prevents rat lungworm, but also rinses off other contaminants.
  • Eliminate snails, slugs and rats — all of which are potential vectors for the disease  — both around residential home gardens and agricultural operations of all scales.
  • Prevent the consumption of snails and slugs by covering all containers, from water catchment tanks to drink and food dishes. Supervise young children while playing outdoors to prevent them from putting a slug or snail in their mouths.

Watch todays video here: https://www.facebook.com/GovernorDavidIge/videos/856480491194011/

For more information on preventing rat lungworm disease, go to the DOH website at www.health.hawaii.gov

Project Vision Celebrates 10 Years with Inaugural Eye Ball

September 2017 marks 10 years of Project Vision Hawaii (PVH) providing free vision and health screenings to underserved and low-income communities across the State of Hawaii.To celebrate, this visionary non-profit is hosting its inaugural Eye Ball fundraiser on Friday, September 22 at Waialae Country Club. The goal is to raise $150,000. The vintage-Hawaii themed gala will feature traditional Hawaiian food, entertainment and an “eyegasmic” silent auction.

For every dollar raised, 91 cents will go toward vision and health care programs and services for people in need. Money raised will help allow Project Vision to work towards its goal to provide 15,000 children with eyeglasses, thousands of seniors with vision screening and public health education and thousands of homeless people with much-needed health and education services.

“We are proud and grateful to be celebrating a decade of vision and public health services throughout the state of Hawaii,” said Annie Valentin, PVH executive director. “Project Vision Hawaii is all about the strength of our partnerships, sponsors, volunteers, board and staff. Eye Ball is our opportunity to share our accomplishments, and most importantly a time to thank everyone helping some of Hawaii’s neediest communities.”

There are a limited sponsorship opportunities available. For more information, contact call (808) 282-2265 or email eyeball@projectvisionhawaii.org

Project Vision operates four mobile screening units across the islands – one to serve Oahu, Molokai and Lanai, and one each on Hawaii Island, Maui and Kauai – in an effort to increase access to health care as well as identify and address eye diseases early on. Project Vision partners with other nonprofits including Vision To Learn, local ophthalmologists and civic groups such as Lions Clubs to conduct screenings.

Tropical Fruit Growers Conference Goes Statewide Sept. 22-29

The 27th Annual Hawaii International Tropical Fruit Conference is September 22-29, starting at the Kaikodo Building in Hilo and then traveling to Kona, Maui, Molokai, Oahu and Kauai for mini-conferences.Geared to farmers, educators, orchard managers and proponents of sustainable agriculture, the eight-day event is presented by the statewide Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers (HTFG) and open to the public.

The conference is titled “Facing Challenges” and offers a lineup of visiting researchers and agro experts sharing information and breakout sessions on a variety of topics. They include Ed Stover on “Huanglongbing and the U.S. Citrus Industry: Status and Ongoing Research,” Lindsay Basik on “Durian Cultivation Around the World,” and David Karp on the “History and Genealogy of Citrus.”

HTFG Executive Director Ken Love says Hilo activities include UH, USDA and NASS updates, a report and survey on specialty crops, Q & A with guest speakers, Sunday tour of OK Farms with Brian Lievens, networking and fruit tasting.

Mini-conference activities on the other islands include farm tours and speaker presentations and meetings.

Registration forms and fee schedule are available at www.HTFG.org or by contacting Love at kenlove@hawaiiantel.net or Mark Suiso at suiso@aloha.net. Conference room rates are available through August 9, 2017 at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel using code HH7027. Conference is made possible through funding from the County of Hawaii and Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers

Marking its 28th year, HTFG was incorporated in 1989 to promote tropical fruit grown in Hawaii. It is a statewide association of tropical fruit growers, packers, distributors and hobbyists dedicated to tropical fruit research, education, marketing and promotion; www.HTFG.org.

Hawaii Department of Health Certifies Lab to Begin Testing Medical Cannabis

Steep Hill Hawaii, a private independent laboratory on Oahu, can now begin testing medical cannabis from Hawaii’s licensed medical cannabis dispensaries and registered patients and caregivers. The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) granted Steep Hill a provisional certification today after the laboratory successfully passed its final onsite inspection and met requirements that demonstrate it has the capacity and proficiency to test cannabis and manufactured cannabis in compliance with state law.

Click to visit

“We realize that registered patients and caregivers and some of the licensed dispensaries have been waiting for a laboratory to become operational to test medical cannabis prior to consumption and sale. This is a major step forward as it allows the dispensaries to now begin testing their products to sell to qualified patients,” said Keith Ridley, Chief of DOH’s Office of Health Care Assurance, who oversees the medical cannabis dispensary program.

A laboratory is restricted from handling, testing, or analyzing cannabis or manufactured cannabis products until it is certified by the state. Under the interim administrative rules governing the medical cannabis dispensary program, certification allows a laboratory to conduct specific tests required to ensure the safety of products sold to registered patients in Hawaii.

“Certification follows a rigorous scientific process that requires meticulous attention to detail and constant refining to ensure product and patient safety,” said Chris Whelen, chief of DOH’s State Laboratories Division. “Our State Laboratories Division team is currently working closely with two other private independent labs to help them obtain certification. They are continuing to submit or resubmit their validation studies for certification.”

To receive certification, a laboratory must submit validation studies to demonstrate it is capable of conducting testing with consistent and accurate results for the following areas: cannabinoid profile (including THC), compound that are considered “active ingredients,” heavy metals such as arsenic, pesticides, solvents, moisture content, microbial contaminants, intestinal bacteria and pathogens, dangerous molds that can cause infection and disease, and toxins produced by molds. In addition, a laboratory must also meet the accreditation standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii are required to have their products tested for safety by a state-certified independent laboratory prior to sale. Laboratories interested in providing testing for medical cannabis on Kauai, Hawaii Island, Maui, or Oahu may apply for state certification at http://health.hawaii.gov/statelab.

Endangered ‘Io Released After Recovering From Severe Wing Injury

An endangered ʻIo, Hawaiian hawk, has been returned to the wild after six months of extensive rehabilitation following a severe wing injury back in January. The ʻIo, a young female, was found with a fractured wing by a concerned citizen. The bird’s rescuer contacted the Division of Forestry and Wildlife who then sought out a local veterinary clinic to provide emergency care to stabilize the injured bird. Once stabilized, the ʻIo was transferred to the care of the Hawaiʻi Wildlife Center in Kapaʻau in the hopes that she could be rehabilitated for a second chance at life in the wild.

“Initially we were concerned about the location of the fracture and questioned the likelihood of her regaining the ability to fly and survive in the wild,” said Samantha Christie, Wildlife Rehabiltation Manager at the Hawaiʻi Wildlife Center. Fortunately, the ʻIo demonstrated a tenacious fighting spirit and overcame all obstacles between her and a triumphant return to the skies of Hawai‘i island. In total, the ʻIo spent six months in captivity as professional rehabilitators and veterinarians examined her case and prepared her for release.

The ʻIo was housed in large raptor aviary at HWC which allowed her to stretch her newly healed wing and exercise. “We were able to monitor her activity thanks to a remote camera in the enclosure. This way, we could minimize her contact with humans and still observe her progress,” said Christie. It seems the techniques were successful as the ʻIo exhibited a healthy fear and distrust of her caretakers throughout her captivity. “While I’m sure she appreciates the free mouse dinner, there’s no question of us being friends. This is a wild animal and she resists human contact and handling with all of her strength.”

Radiographs showed a severe fracture near the ‘Io’s shoulder.

The ʻIo was provided with a varied diet of mice, rats, and birds, but she took it upon herself to supplement her menu with something a bit more exciting. “Each raptor that we treat is presented with live prey before they are released to ensure that they have retained the ability to hunt. Not only did this ʻIo pass mouse prey-testing with flying colors, she was also seen on camera catching and eating large centipedes on several occasions,” said Alexis Wessels, Wildlife Rehabilitation Technician at HWC.

HWC consulted with experts regarding the timing and location of the ʻIo’s release. Her flight, hunting skills, body condition, feathers, and bloodwork were each evaluated to ensure that the young hunter was adequately prepared to return to a life in the wild. She was also banded by Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife before her release. The tenacious ʻIo flew quickly and easily upon release outside the HWC facility in Kapaʻau. She came to rest in a nearby tree, seemily taking in her new surroundings and showing great interest in the small birds arriving to investigate the newcomer. Then, with surprising stealth and confidence, she took off to resume the mysterious life of a wild bird. Six months of hard work, collaboration, and dedication lead to this moment—a hard-fought success for an endangered species and a victory for Hawaiʻi’s native wildlife.  

Inadequate Housing in Hawaii Plays a Large Role in Unnecessary Hospitalizations

Homelessness and inadequate housing are major causes of unnecessary hospitalizations, according to a study by University of Hawai‘i researchers.

The finding is from an ongoing project to understand and reduce potentially preventable hospitalizations for diabetes and heart disease in Hawaiʻi under Principal Investigator Tetine Sentell, an associate professor in the UH Office of Public Health Studies. Said Sentell, “We were interested in patient perspectives on the role of housing as contributing to their potentially preventable hospitalization.”

Tetine Sentell and Michelle Quensell

Reported lead author of the study, Michelle Quensell, a UH public health graduate, “We talked to 90 patients, and almost 25% reported a housing-related issue as a major factor in hospitalization. About half of these patients were homeless, noting the high cost of housing in Hawai‘i.”

Added Sentell, “Patients said it was hard to care for their diabetes or heart disease when they were living without amenities such as refrigeration, running water, a stove or a safe place to store medications. Patients also mentioned the challenges of following diet plans when canned goods were the only available foods at the shelters and food banks.”

Several major health providers in Hawaiʻi have recently created innovative new programs to address social determinants, including housing, within the health-care setting to improve health-care quality and reduce health-care costs. This research strongly supports these efforts.

Quensell is a 2015 graduate of the Health Policy and Management programs within Public Health. Other investigators included Kathryn Braun from Public Health; Deborah Taira at the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, University of Hawai’i at Hilo; and Todd Seto at the Queen’s Medical Center.

For more information, visit: http://manoa.hawaii.edu/publichealth/

Hawaii Department of Health Fines Aloha Petroleum, LTD., $200,000 for Fuel Tank Violations

The Hawaii State Department of Health Underground Storage Tank (UST) Section has issued a Notice of Violation against Aloha Petroleum, Ltd., the registered owner and operator of four 10,000-gallon underground storage tanks at its fuel service station located at 3203 Monsarrat Avenue in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Aloha Petroleum has been cited for failing to notify the department of a suspected fuel release within 24 hours of discovery, failing to conduct a timely investigation of the release, and deficiencies related to its release detection monitoring and record keeping system.

Aloha Petroleum has been assessed a $200,000 penalty and may request a hearing to contest the allegations and order.

DOH regulates USTs that hold petroleum or hazardous substances. Failure on the part of UST owners and operators to timely report suspected releases, unusual operating conditions and the loss of product may result in increased clean-up costs for petroleum contamination to the environment.

Hawaii Department of Transportation Launches 8th Annual Pedestrian Safety Month with New Girl Scouts Partnership and Drive Wise Hawaii Brochure

Governor David Y. Ige, the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT), and federal, state and community partners kicked off the state’s 8th annual Pedestrian Safety Month today at the State Capitol with an official proclamation ceremony. Held each August, Pedestrian Safety Month works to increase awareness of pedestrian safety to make Hawaii a safer place to walk. The month is organized by HDOT’s Walk Wise Hawaii program and will feature daily public and private pedestrian safety events.

“The primary cause of pedestrian accidents is inattentive behavior on both the part of the pedestrian and the driver,” HDOT Director Ford Fuchigami said. “Our Walk Wise Hawaii program is an important tool, along with enforcement and safety engineering, in increasing awareness to reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries in our state.”

In 2016, there were nearly 6,000 pedestrian deaths in the U.S., which is the highest in more than two decades. State data shows that there were 32 pedestrian fatalities in Hawaii in 2016, and one pedestrian fatality in 2017.

On average, a pedestrian is killed every two hours and injured every seven minutes in traffic crashes nationwide,” Fuchigami said. “We believe that this alarming trend can be reduced through increased awareness of the problem and education, which is why we created Pedestrian Safety Month.  Protecting our most vulnerable roadway users is one of our top priorities.”

During today’s event, HDOT announced a new community partnership with the Girl Scouts of Hawaii. Walk Wise Hawaii conduct safety presentations to nearly 5,000 Girl Scouts throughout the state. Girl Scout troops will then create a pedestrian safety project to share key Walk Wise Hawaii safety tips with the public, earning each participating Girl Scout an inaugural Walk Wise Hawaii Pedestrian Safety Patch.

“Pedestrian Safety is an important message to everyone, and Girl Scouts in Hawaii look forward to carrying that message throughout our community,” said Shari Chang, CEO Girl Scouts of Hawaii. “Scouts of all ages will be participating in a variety of community awareness projects to support this program.”A new Drive Wise Hawaii brochure was also unveiled, which outlines ways that drivers can safely handle pedestrian activity on Hawaii’s roadways, including:

  1. Always be prepared to stop when approaching a crosswalk. A pedestrian may be hidden from view.
  2. Be vigilant. Always look for pedestrian movement in your direction.
  3. Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Proceed when the pedestrian has safely passed your vehicle.
  4. Be aware that pedestrians can be hidden from view when you are stopped at multilane roads.
  5. When driving between dusk and down, watch for pedestrians in dark clothing. Always use your headlights.
  6. Always watch for pedestrians when backing out of driveways or parking stalls. Children can be hidden from view.
  7. Make sure that you are fit to drive.

The brochure features a Drive Wise Hawaii Pledge for drivers that asks them: “As a good driver to always be aware that pedestrians can be hidden from view by stopped vehicles on multi-lane streets.” Brochures will be distributed at participating McDonald’s Restaurants of Hawaii drive-through locations and community events throughout the state during Pedestrian Safety Month.

Pedestrian Safety Month public partners include the City & County of Honolulu’s Department of Transportation Services; all County police departments; the Hawaii Police Department’s Community Policing Teams and Neighborhood Security Watch Teams; and Safe Routes to School. Private partners include First Hawaiian Bank, DTRIC Insurance and Moms In Hawaii. Pedestrian-related community events and campaigns will be taking place throughout the month to encourage safe pedestrian behaviors and raise driver awareness of pedestrians.

For more information on Walk Wise Hawaii and a list of Pedestrian Safety Month events, call (808) 587-2160 or visit https://www.facebook.com/WalkWiseHawaii/.

About Walk Wise Hawaii
Walk Wise Hawaii is a public education program focusing on pedestrian safety and driver awareness, and is sponsored by the Hawaii Department of Transportation through its “Safe Communities” program with funding from the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA). Walk Wise Hawaii has employed extensive outreach methods including partnerships with public and private entities since its inception in 2003.

About Girl Scouts of Hawaii
Supporting almost 5,000 girl and adult members statewide, the Girl Scouts of Hawaii (GSH) builds girls of courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place. GSH’s headquarters is located on the island of Oahu, with three neighbor island service centers on the islands of Hawaii, Kauai and Maui. GSH is chartered by the national office, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) and is responsible for the leadership, administration and supervision of Girl Scout programs in the State of Hawaii. For more information about GSH, visit www.gshawaii.org or call (808) 595-8400.

Eating Macadamia Nuts Can Help Reduce Risk of Coronary Heart Disease Under Certain Circumstances

The Hawaii Congressional Delegation applauded the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of a petition that certifies that eating macadamia nuts can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease under certain circumstances.

The approval of the petition will allow certain macadamia nut products to carry a label that designates them as heart-healthy. After a nearly two-year wait, the Hawaii Congressional Delegation wrote to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on June 26 urging him to expedite review of the petition.

“The FDA ruling will directly benefit Hawaii’s agricultural community,” said Senator Mazie K. Hirono. “Macadamia nuts are one of Hawaii’s most well-known foods, and today’s ruling allows farmers to better market macadamia nut products by educating consumers of their health benefits.”

“This is great news for Hawaii’s macadamia nut producers and our local economy,” said Senator Brian Schatz. “This ruling lifts a cloud of uncertainty off the industry and helps cement the macadamia nut’s place as one of our state’s most valued exports.”

“I am thrilled to see the FDA recognize the health benefits of one of Hawaii’s most famous crops,” said Representative Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01). “This is good news for Hawaii and those of us, like me, who eat Macadamia Nuts on a regular basis.”

“People in Hawaii have long recognized the benefits of macadamia nuts for our overall health and wellbeing,” said Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02). “This decision is an important step to strengthening our local macadamia industry, increasing its potential for growth, and confirming that like other tree nuts, macadamia nuts can offer a great contribution to a healthy diet.”

The petition was submitted by Royal Hawaiian Macadamia Nut, Inc., but will apply to certain macadamia nut products, regardless of manufacturer.

Under the new guidelines, certain macadamia nut products can carry the following statement:

“Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces per day of macadamia nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and not resulting in increased intake of saturated fat or calories may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. See nutrition information for fat [and calorie] content.”