Statement by Hawai‘i Gov. David Ige on Hawai‘i’s Medicaid Expenditures

The State of Hawai‘i has responded to Sen. Ron Johnson’s request for information on Hawai‘i’s Medicaid expenditures for the Medicaid expansion. (Letter attached).

I am setting the record straight. Hawai‘i’s overall Medicaid costs per capita are at or below the national average. We have among the lowest rates in the nation. I am proud of our program and its effectiveness in providing our residents with quality health care they can afford.

Let me be clear. This is not about politics or data. This is about people, their lives and our responsibility to ensure that they receive quality health care.

We must stop wasting our time and energy on politics and blame. I ask our public servants to reach across the aisle and talk to each other so that we can resolve this issue.

For Hawai‘i, it is clear. We have a model Medicaid program and we will continue to be one of the nation’s leaders in quality health care.

Letter to Senator Ron Johnson

Hawai`i Department of Health Approves Fourth Dispensary to Begin Retail Sales of Medical Cannabis

The Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH) has issued a formal notice to proceed to Mānoa Botanicals LLC dba Noa Botanicals after the dispensary completed laboratory testing requirements and passed its final onsite inspection. Noa Botanicals is the fourth licensed medical cannabis dispensary in the state (and the second on O‘ahu) to receive approval to begin sales of medical cannabis to registered patients and their caregivers.

The licensed retail center for Noa Botanicals is located at 1308 Young Street in Honolulu, and the dispensary expects to begin sales at the site this month.

“We are continuing to closely work with both the licensed dispensaries and private laboratories in each of the counties to help them meet all of the requirements as efficiently as possible without compromising product or patient safety,” said Keith Ridley, who oversees the medical cannabis dispensary program for the Hawaii State Department of Health.

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 the Hawaii Department of Health.

The other licensed retail centers are:

  • Maui Grown Therapies, located at 44 Pa‘a Street in Kahului, Maui, which was the first licensed dispensary in Hawai‘i to receive a notice to proceed on Aug. 8, 2017;
  • Aloha Green, in the Interstate Building at 1314 South King Street in Honolulu, received its notice to proceed on Aug. 9, 2017; and
  • Pono Life Sciences Maui LLC, at 415 Dairy Road in Kahului, Maui, was the second Maui dispensary to receive a notice to proceed on Sept. 29, 2017.

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.

There are eight licensed dispensaries in Hawai‘i. There are three on O‘ahu: Aloha Green Holdings Inc.; Mānoa Botanicals LLC dba Noa Botanicals; and TCG Retro Market 1, LLC dba Cure O‘ahu. There are two in Hawai‘i County: Hawaiian Ethos LLC and Lau Ola LLC. The two Maui dispensaries include Maui Wellness Group, LLC dba Maui Grown Therapies; and Pono Life Sciences Maui, LLC. The one dispensary located on Kaua‘i is Green Aloha, Ltd. Each licensed dispensary is an independent business and operates based on their individual business plans.

More information on the Medical Cannabis Dispensary Program is available at www.health.hawaii.gov/medicalcannabis/.

North Hawai’i Community Hospital Lobby to Close Temporarily

The lobby at North Hawai’i Community Hospital will close for several weeks starting Thursday, October 12.

The closure is required while flooring in the lobby is replaced. This is the last phase of a large-scale flooring replacement project ongoing at the hospital since November 2016.

Patients and visitors are directed to enter the hospital through the emergency room entrance. Signage will be placed throughout the campus to help redirect visitors.

For patient convenience, all parking near the emergency room will be designated for patients and visitors only.

Visitors to the Lucy Henriques building will continue to enter through that building.

The project is expected to be completed by November 3.

Commentary – Were Pahoa High and Intermediate Lunch Times Shortened Because of a Fight?

Yesterday, KHON2 News ran a news story about Pahoa’s lunches being shortened.

…Changes to the lunch program at a Hawaii island school prompted parents to reach out to us, saying their kids are being rushed to eat.

Their kids go to Pahoa High and Intermediate School, which recently started a pilot lunch program.
High school students eat during the normal 30-minute lunch break, but intermediate school students eat during recess, which is just 15 minutes long…

I received the following message on Wednesday indicating that this change in policy may have stemmed from a fight on campus… but didn’t discuss it further with the person sending me the information until tonight:

Aloha Damon, I wanted to bring something to your attention that maybe you could do some investigative reporting. Apparently Pahoa High and Intermediate administration has decided to have Intermediate student only eat lunch during first recess which is 15 minutes while the high school eats during regular lunch which is 30 minutes. When I complained to the principal she stated it was due to decreasing tardys to class during lunch time. An insider told me they did it because of a fight that occurred between a Intermediate kid and a high schooler.

When discussing this with friends on Facebook, one person posted a picture from the Pahoa Cafeteria:

My kids say they don’t even bother eating when this is what they are serving at Pahoa. ~VW

“This was what they call Baja fish taco SMH. This was on Wednesday when we went to school for student of the month luncheon I was In Shock when he came to the table with this…Home lunches from now on!!!” said Valerie Walsh.

Got Baja Fish Taco? I don’t know if I could swallow this in 15 minutes… less yet an hour!!!

Hawai`i Joins Coalition of 18 States Opposing President’s Contraception Coverage Rollback

Attorney General Doug Chin today joined a coalition of 18 attorneys general warning the Trump administration that it should expect legal action over its discriminatory, ill-considered, and dangerous move to effectively end the contraception coverage rule created by the Affordable Care Act. The 18 attorneys general have written Acting Secretary of Health and Human Services Don Wright, Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta, and Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin expressing their strong opposition to the Trump administration’s action that will increase healthcare costs for women, lead to more unplanned pregnancies, and place even more strain on state budgets.

Attorney General Doug Chin

Attorney General Chin said, “We are talking about basic access to health care for women. Contraception provides women the autonomy they deserve. It’s also used to treat a variety of serious conditions having nothing to do with birth control. And the public has had no opportunity to comment.”

For millions of women the contraception coverage rule has reduced their healthcare costs, helped address medical conditions, and allowed them to make their own decisions about when and if to have children. Before the contraception coverage rule, birth control accounted for 30-44% of a woman’s out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Now, 62 million women across the country have access to contraception without a co-pay, saving an average of $255 per year for oral pill contraceptives, and the percentage of women who have a co-pay for contraception has fallen from more than 20% to less than 4%.

“Allowing any employer or insurance company with a religious or ‘moral’ objection to contraception to opt out of this requirement will take away women’s autonomy to make their own reproductive decisions and put those decisions in the hands of their employers,” write the attorneys general. “Subjecting women to the religious and moral beliefs of their employers violates the right to privacy that is so evident in Supreme Court doctrine. Women should have coverage for their critical health care just as men do.”

The attorneys general also informed the relevant cabinet secretaries that “we will closely monitor any legal challenges to this rule that discriminates against women in our states and negatively impacts our state budgets. We stand ready to take action to protect the best interests of our states and constituents.”

In addition to Hawaii, Oregon, and Virginia, joining today’s letter opposing the Trump administration’s rollback of contraceptive coverage are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

A copy of the letter is attached.

Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Inc. Donates $2.34 Million To Hawaii Island Adult Care Project

Hawaii Island Adult Care Project Slated For February 2018 Completion

The Hilo Adult Day Center, a joint venture between Hawaii Island Adult Care, Inc. (HIAC) and Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation (HICDC), was awarded $2,340,000 by The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Inc.

“Words cannot express our gratitude to the trustees of The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation for their generous gift,” said Hawaii Island Adult Care Executive Director Paula Uusitalo. “The Weinberg Foundation’s largess will enable completion of the construction project and positively affect senior lives in Hilo for the next 50 plus years.”

The Weinberg Foundation has so far funded $1,775,000 and the final $565,000 payment will be made at the completion of the project.

Hilo Adult Day Center’s new building, located on Mohouli Street and above Komohana Street, will feature large open spaces for art/craft activities and physical fitness geared to elders along with quiet indoor spaces for reading, socializing and relaxing. Project features include a fully certified kitchen to provide hot meals, outdoor gardens and a meandering path. The project is currently under construction by Isemoto Construction Corporation and is roughly 50% complete. Construction is expected to be completed in February 2018.

“We wouldn’t be here without the organization and support of the Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation and its executive director Keith Kato,” added Uusitalo.  “Keith and HICDC’s Development Manager Jeremy McComber contributing their expertise in securing the site, developing the infrastructure, working with HIAC on the building design, and bidding, awarding and overseeing the construction have been invaluable. Our organization worked towards a new Hilo building starting in the year 2000,but the true Capital Campaign project did not launch until Keith Kato and the Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation became involved.”

The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Adult Day Center will complement Hawaii Island Community Development Corp’s existing and planned senior housing in the Mohouli Senior complex with its 182 units at full build out. The first phase of 60 senior housing units was completed in 2014, the second phase with 30 units is nearing completion this month and funding for the last increment of 92 units has been secured from the State Housing Finance and Development Corporation.

The total budget for the Adult Day Center project is $8,586,000. While the building will be completed early next year, the parent organization, Hawaii Island Adult Care will still require an additional $580,000 to pay for furniture, fixtures and equipment including a commercial kitchen that will provide meals for the seniors.

To date, in addition to The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, project donors include community and board members, County of Hawaii, State of Hawaii, Cooke Foundation, HEI Charitable Foundation, LGA Family Foundation, Matson Foundation, KTA Super Stores, Bank of Hawaii and the Atherton Family Foundation.

For information on how to donate to the capital campaign contact the Hawaii Island Adult Care Executive Director Paula Uusitalo at (808) 961-3747, ext. 105 or Keith Kato, Executive Director of the Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation at (808) 319-2422 or visit www.hawaiiislandadultcare.org.

Hawaii Joins in Settling With Mylan Inc – Will Receive Over $700,000

Attorney General Doug Chin announced today that Hawaii has joined the United States, the District of Columbia, and all 49 other states in settling allegations against Mylan Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Mylan Specialty L.P. (collectively “Mylan”). The settlement resolves allegations that Mylan knowingly underpaid rebates owed to the Medicaid program for the drugs EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. (“EpiPen”) dispensed to Medicaid beneficiaries. Mylan owns the exclusive rights to sell EpiPen in the United States and possesses legal title to the New Drug Codes (“NDCs”) for EpiPen.

Pursuant to a settlement Mylan entered with the United States in August, Mylan was to pay up to $465 million to the United States and the states, depending on the number of states that joined the settlement. As of Friday, September 29th, all fifty states and the District of Columbia had joined the settlement; as a result, the states will share $213,936,000 of the total settlement of $465 million. Hawaii’s share of the settlement is $742,679.02, which will be split between the Med-Quest program at the Department of Human Services as restitution and the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit at the Department of the Attorney General for its continued enforcement efforts.

The Medicaid Drug Rebate Statute was enacted by Congress in 1990 to keep costs down for Medicaid’s payment for outpatient drugs. The law requires participating drug makers and NDC holders such as Mylan to sign a rebate agreement with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That agreement is a precondition to drug makers getting Medicaid coverage for their drugs, and to pay quarterly rebates to state Medicaid programs for drugs dispensed to Medicaid beneficiaries. NDC holders must provide information to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) concerning their covered drugs. In particular, they must advise CMS regarding the classification of a covered drug as an “innovator” or “noninnovator” drug. This is because the amount of rebates owed varies depending on the drug’s classification. The amount of the rebate also depends on pricing information provided by the manufacturer. For drugs classified as “innovator” drugs, NDC holders must report their “Best Price,” or the lowest price for which it sold a covered drug in a particular quarter.

Specifically, this settlement resolves allegations that from July 29, 2010 to March 31, 2017, Mylan submitted false statements to CMS that incorrectly classified EpiPen as a “noninnovator multiple source” drug, as opposed to a “single source” or “innovator multiple source” drug. Mylan also did not report a Best Price to CMS for EpiPen, which it was required to do for all “single source” and “innovator multiple source” drugs. This meant Mylan submitted false statements to CMS and the States relating to EpiPen for Medicaid rebate purposes, and underpaid its EpiPen rebates to the State Medicaid Programs.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month – 29th Hilo Family and Peace Walk and Vigil

Marking the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Department of the Attorney General and Hawaii State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (HSCADV) encourage community members to come together to keep our communities safe. While law enforcement and victim advocacy services are available, we need the community to help end domestic violence.

Attorney General Doug Chin

Attorney General Doug Chin said, “Domestic violence is a persistent and unacceptable condition in our communities. Please use this month to educate yourself to help stop others from being hurt.”

HSCADV Executive Director Stacey Moniz said, “This October marks the 30th year we have been honoring Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We encourage our communities across the state to engage with your local domestic violence programs. Please get involved, donate or volunteer, follow them on social media and help raise awareness of the valuable resources available on every island. Let’s all stand together and say, Hawaii Says No More to domestic violence.”

For information on what is domestic violence, go to the U.S. Department of Justice webpage https://www.justice.gov/ovw/domestic-violence. There are many ways to get involved. It could be as simple as wearing the color purple to bring domestic violence awareness on October 19th, National Purple Thursday. You can also participate in a number of free events around the state, including:

  • A Domestic Violence Awareness Fair being held at the Maui Queen Kaahumanu Center on October 14th;
  • The 29th Hilo Family and Peace Walk and Vigil on October 27th; and
  • ‘Slippa’ Donation to benefit Child and Family Service emergency shelters and domestic violence programs on October 14th at the Pearl City Walmart.

For a complete listing of events, go to HSCADV’s website at https://www.hscadv.org/

In 2015, there were 10,830 Protective Orders filed in Family Court in addition to 1,280 arrests for Violation of a Temporary Restraining Order and 2,774 arrests for Violation of a Protection Order. For a listing of domestic violence victim advocacy services go to https://www.hscadv.org/resources, and other important contacts https://www.hscadv.org/other-important-contacts

 

Hawaii Department of Health Awarded $361K in Funding for Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Efforts

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) Children with Special Health Needs Branch has been awarded $361,956 in cooperative agreement funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the Hawaii Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (HI-CLPPP).

The federal funding will support the state’s efforts to reduce lead exposure and lead poisoning for Hawaii children under the age of six. Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health; increase the risks for damage to the brain and nervous system; slow growth and development; and result in learning, behavioral, hearing and speech problems. Young children are at the highest risk for lead exposure because they engage in more hand-to-mouth activity, and a child’s developing nervous system is more susceptible to the effects of lead.

“Early screening and testing to identify and prevent lead exposure in young children helps ensure the healthy development of our keiki,” said Dr. Patricia Heu, chief of the DOH Children with Special Health Needs Branch. “This new funding will improve our processes to identify lead-exposed children and link their families with services to find and remove the source of lead. This will help to protect that child and other children in the family from further exposure.”

According to DOH data from 2011 to 2015, nearly 60,000 children under the age of six in Hawaii were tested for lead. Of those tested, 1,700 children (about 3 percent) had elevated blood lead levels.

“Recent research shows that there is no safe blood lead level in children.” said Danette Wong Tomiyasu, Health Resources Administration deputy director. “Keeping our keiki safe from lead hazards and lead poisoning requires collaborative efforts between our state programs, healthcare professionals, and our community. The department is committed to working with these groups to promote the healthy development of young children and to support their future success in school and life.”

The cooperative agreement funding will enable DOH to address the complex problem of childhood lead poisoning using a collaborative approach with state and community partners. The department’s Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response Office, Indoor and Radiological Health Branch/Lead-Based Paint Program, and Public Health Nursing Branch are working together with the Children with Special Health Needs Branch to implement the HI-CLPPP program.

HI-CLPPP’s purpose is to reduce lead exposure and lead poisoning for children under the age of six through strengthening blood lead level testing, surveillance, prevention, and processes to identify lead-exposed children and link them to services. Strategies and activities under the new grant will include:

  • Updating guidelines for blood lead testing.
  • Implementing a new lead database as a public health management tool.
  • Education and outreach to communities and providers.
  • Coordinating with other agencies, partners and stakeholders serving children to ensure that a comprehensive system of identification, referral, services and follow-up is in place for lead-exposed children.

Sources of lead exposure for children may include lead in paint or paint dust in houses built before 1978 when lead-based paint in housing was banned. Children may also be exposed to lead by family members who work with or have hobbies that involve contact with lead such as auto repair, welding, construction and home renovation. Other sources of lead may include fishing sinkers, jewelry, toys, glazed pottery and folk medicine made in foreign countries.

Being aware of the sources of lead and taking precautions can help protect young children from the serious effects of lead poisoning. Families can ask their doctor to test their child for lead, even if the child seems healthy. Families living in homes built before 1978 should keep children’s play areas free of paint chips and dust and take extra precaution when doing home renovation to prevent the spread of lead dust. Family members who work with lead are advised to keep work clothes and shoes away from children.

More information can be found at the department’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention website at http://health.hawaii.gov/cshcn/leadpp/.

Governor Ige Marks Family Assessment Center’s First Anniversary, Outlines Progress on Homelessness

Gov. David Ige today highlighted the state’s overall progress in addressing homelessness while recognizing the first anniversary of the state’s Family Assessment Center (FAC).

The FAC temporarily houses homeless families while they are being connected to services and long-term housing with the assistance of specialists from Catholic Charities Hawai‘i. More than 90 percent of families who have stayed at the FAC and have left the facility over the past year, have been housed, or 35 families out of 38 families serviced. In addition, the average time from intake to placement is 82 days ­– eight days fewer than the 90-day goal the state previously set.

Gov. Ige also said the FAC reflects the state’s overall gains on homelessness, pointing to a nine percent overall decrease in homelessness between 2016-17 – the first decrease in eight years – and a 19 percent reduction in family homelessness.

“The Family Assessment Center is a game-changer that is making a difference in the lives of unsheltered families and helping to provide the stability they need to improve their lives,” Gov. Ige said.

The success of the FAC illustrates the ʻOhana Nui approach, which includes a focus on the whole family; a priority on children, particularly those between infancy and age 5; and collaboration to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

“The Department of Human Services is proud to work hand-in-hand with the Governor’s Coordinator and Catholic Charities on long-term solutions to end homelessness,” said DHS Director Pankaj Bhanot. “The Family Assessment Center is a testament to the power of generative partnerships and a focus on connecting families to an array of services suited to their needs. We see that when we can work together to meet families where they are, families can thrive and not just survive.”

The FAC, which is operated by Catholic Charities Hawai‘i, is modeled after housing navigation centers in San Francisco.  Its small population – no more than 50 people, or 12-15 households at a time – enables more individualized care. Guests are not required to have identification, which is a key obstacle for many people experiencing homelessness.  Families are quickly transitioned to permanent housing or other appropriate services in 90 days or less. The facility opened on September 26, 2016.

Hawaii Department of Health Awarded $3.5 Million to Support Families Through Home Visiting Program

The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) has been awarded $3,510,137 in federal funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to support the state’s Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program. The funds will provide voluntary, evidence-based home visiting services to women during pregnancy, and to parents with young children up to kindergarten entry.

“Home visiting services help to ensure our keiki and their families have a healthier start,” said Matthew Shim, DOH Family Health Services Division Chief. “This federal funding will allow the state to continue to provide this important service to expecting mothers and families during a critical time in their child’s development.”

The MIECHV Program serves about 850 Hawaii families each year with more than 10,000 home visits conducted statewide annually. Families are screened for eligibility in birthing hospitals, or families may contact MIECHV contracted providers online at www.yourohana.org to determine their eligibility. Services assist mothers through pregnancy and post-delivery, providing support to mothers learning to breastfeed and care for their baby’s health and early development through no-cost home visiting educational supports. Parents receive counseling to acquire knowledge and understanding of child development milestones and positive parenting techniques. Assistance is also offered to help families to set goals for the future, continue their education, and find employment and child care solutions.

During federal fiscal year 2016, 93.9 percent of pregnant women enrolled in the program accessed prenatal care before the end of their second trimester. Prenatal care is essential for ensuring the safe birth of a healthy baby. Pregnant women enrolled in the program also reported breastfeeding their infants for an average of 24.6 weeks or for the first 6 months of life as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All of the families enrolled in the program received counseling on the results of the child’s developmental screenings, and parents spent more time in adult education programs to move toward economic self-sufficiency by furthering their education.

“The MIECHV Program helps parents and caregivers connect with services and resources and improve the skills they need to support their families’ well-being and provide the best opportunities for their children,” said HRSA Associate Administrator for Maternal and Child Health Michael Lu, M.D., M.S., M.P.H. “In these voluntary programs, trained nurses, social workers, early childhood educators, or other trained professionals meet regularly with expectant parents or families with young children in their homes, building strong, positive relationships with families who want and need support.”

Administered by HRSA, in partnership with the Administration for Children and Families, the MIECHV Program gives pregnant women and families, particularly those considered at-risk, necessary resources and skills to raise children who are physically, socially, and emotionally healthy and ready to learn. Funded through the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 through FY 2017, the MIECHV Program is also addressing HHS’ clinical priorities such as the opioid crisis, serious mental illness, and childhood obesity. Nationwide, $342 million in funding was awarded to 55 states, territories, and nonprofit organizations.

For more information on HRSA’s Home Visiting Program, visit http://mchb.hrsa.gov/programs/homevisiting.

For a list of all state and county awardees, visit https://mchb.hrsa.gov/maternal-child-health-initiatives/home-visiting/fy17-home-visiting-awards.

Two Men Charged With 35 Counts of Medical Assistance Fraud

Robert Wolf and Ching-Ying Jao have been charged with 35 counts of medical assistance fraud by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of the Department of the Attorney General. The charges are based on incidents occurring in 2014 and 2015.

Click to view all charges

According to the allegations in the complaint, at the time of the offenses Wolf and Jao billed patients for psychotherapy services that were not performed.

Both Wolf, 71, and Jao, 37, are residents of Honolulu. Neither have prior convictions. Medical assistance fraud is a class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

Wolf and Jao are presumed innocent unless and until they are found guilty of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

A copy of the complaint is attached. The two men were arraigned today.

County, State, Faith-Based Groups and Community Join Hands to Help Homeless

The County of Hawai’i is joining hands with the State of Hawai’i, the faith-based community, non-profits, businesses and other concerned citizens to address the island’s homelessness crisis, Mayor Harry Kim said.  The County is working collaboratively on a comprehensive program with the ultimate goal of transitioning homeless people of our island from temporary shelters to affordable housing and jobs.

“These are our people,” Mayor Kim said in a statement. “We cannot in good conscience let homelessness for families and individuals spiral upward; we must do something definitive to address it. I truly feel a growing support from the community.”

His remarks followed the 2nd Annual West Hawai’i Faith-Based Summit to End Family Homelessness in Kona on September 27.  The event was a day-long gathering involving more than 20 West Hawai’i church congregations, numerous social service agencies, healthcare professionals, businesses, as well as State and County officials.

“The faith-based community is really pitching in, offering to adopt homeless families and providing all kinds of material and spiritual support; we cannot thank these good people enough,” he said. “Their spirit is spreading far and wide in the community.”

Mayor Kim expressed deep gratitude for the commitment of assistance from the State of Hawai’i’s Homeless Coordinator, Scott Morishige, who attended the summit and stressed the need to maximize space and accelerate placement into shelters or transitional housing.

Governor David Ige conveyed a special message of support for the event, stressing the need for collaboration to tackle the complicated issue of homelessness.

“We appreciate so much the support that the State is giving us; they know this is crucial and that we need everybody’s help,” Mayor Kim said.

According to Lance Niimi, the County’s Homeless Coordinator there are approximately 913 homeless people islandwide, with about 379 individuals in families living without a home.  Niimi helped spearhead Camp Kikaha, a temporary Safe Zone encampment in Kona which houses about 30 people since its opening in May.

Hawaii Department of Health Deputy Director Receives National Award for Excellence in Public Health

Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) Deputy Director Keith Y. Yamamoto has been selected by the national Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) as a 2017 recipient of the prestigious Noble J. Swearingen Award. Yamamoto was honored at an awards ceremony in Washington, DC on Sept. 20.

Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler and Deputy Director Keith Yamamoto confirmed by Senate on April 9, 2015

Each year, ASTHO recognizes individuals nationwide who demonstrate excellence in public health leadership and work tirelessly to protect and promote the public’s health. Yamamoto was selected for his service as a member of ASTHO’s Senior Deputies Committee in which he provided critical guidance and expertise on multiple state and territorial public health issues.

“Keith brings transformative leadership to the field of public health and embodies a genuine desire to improve the health of Hawaii’s residents,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “His accomplishments have made a difference in the lives of others and we are inspired by his commitment to lead with compassion, integrity and perseverance.”

Yamamoto said, “It was an honor and at the same time very humbling to be recognized, especially knowing that I work alongside colleagues who are equally committed to improving the health and well-being of the people of Hawaii,” he said.

A resident of Nuuanu, Yamamoto was appointed DOH deputy director in 2011. He oversees the department’s general administration which includes budget, fiscal, facilities management, human resources, information technology and compliance. He also oversees the District Health Offices of Hawaii, Maui, and Kauai; the Office of Planning, Policy and Program Development; and the Office of Health Status Monitoring.

Prior to his appointment, Yamamoto served for six years as chief of the department’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division, where he was responsible for overseeing and managing a range of adult and adolescent substance abuse prevention, intervention and treatment services statewide.

Yamamoto also previously served as program administrator for the Hawaii Department of Human Services’ Office of Youth Services and managed various school-based vocational education and career development programs for at-risk youth for the Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Yamamoto earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of

Hawaii at Manoa and a bachelor’s in rehabilitation services from the University of Northern Colorado.

The Noble J. Swearingen Award was first bestowed in 1979 in recognition of public health administrators who have demonstrated excellence. ASTHO is a national nonprofit organization which helps state and U.S. territorial health agencies develop and implement essential programs and policies in public health priority areas.

Hawaii State Senator Rosalyn Baker Named Top Influencer in Aging

Next Avenue, public media’s first and only digital publication dedicated to covering issues for people 50 and older, has named State Senator Rosalyn Baker (Dist. 6 – South and West Maui) as one of the top 50 Influencers in Aging.

Senator Rosalyn Baker

Senator Baker was recognized for her advocacy in the area of caregiving by leading the effort to pass a bill that establishes the Kupuna Caregivers Program, the nation’s first benefit program to help an employed family caregiver stay in the workforce while ensuring the loved one has additional supports to age in place. The Kupuna Care and Caregivers programs are especially designed for families for whom assisted living facilities or nursing homes are too expensive. The bill was signed into law on July 6, 2017.

The third annual list of top 50 Influencers in Aging includes advocates, researchers, thought leaders, innovators, writer and experts at the forefront of changing how we age and think about aging.

“I’ve spent my political career advocating for those who are most vulnerable in our community, so I’m honored to be recognized for my work in an area that I’m passionate about – our seniors,” said Sen. Baker. “The Kupuna Caregivers Program is a team effort between government, community and the public, and acknowledges the critical need to help our State’s elderly maintain their dignity and quality of life in their golden years while ensuring family caregivers can stay in the workforce and not jeopardize their own retirement benefits.”

Individuals are honored from each of the five areas that Next Avenue covers: Health & Well-Being, Caregiving, Money & Security, Work & Purpose and Living & Learning.

“Next Avenue is proud to honor these 50 people who are transforming aging in a time when this work is especially crucial,” said Next Avenue Editorial & Content Director Shayla Stern. “More than 100 million Americans are over age 50 now, and as life expectancy increases, it is imperative that policies, housing, science, technology and culture all evolve to better serve our population. These honorees on our list of Influencers in Aging are on the leading edge of this revolution.”

For a complete list of honorees and further information about Next Avenue’s 2017 Influencers in Aging, please visit: nextavenue.org/influencers.

Hawaii Department of Health Issues Pono Life Sciences Maui LLC Notice to Begin Sales of Medical Cannabis to Registered Patients

The Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH) has issued a formal notice to proceed to Pono Life Sciences Maui LLC today after the dispensary completed laboratory testing requirements and passed its final onsite inspection. Pono Life Sciences Maui LLC is the third licensed medical cannabis dispensary in the state (and the second on Maui) to receive approval to begin sales of medical cannabis to registered patients and their caregivers.

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 dba Noa Botanicals; and TCG Retro Market 1, LLC dba Cure Oahu. There are two in Hawai‘i County: Hawaiian Ethos LLC and Lau Ola LLC. The two Maui dispensaries include Maui Wellness Group, LLC dba Maui Grown Therapies; and Pono Life Sciences Maui, LLC. The one dispensary located on Kaua‘i is Green Aloha, Ltd. These dispensaries are now at different stages of development by the licensees, and at varying stages of the approval process.

415 Dairy Road

The licensed retail center for Pono Life Sciences Maui LLC is at 415 Dairy Road in Kahului on Maui.

More information on the Medical Cannabis Dispensary Program is available at www.health.hawaii.gov/medicalcannabis/.

Stop Flu at School Clinic Information Now Available – Free Flu Shots Available

The list of schools participating in this year’s school-located flu vaccination program, Stop Flu at School, is available on the Hawaii Department of Health’s (DOH) website at http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/about-us/programs/stop-flu-at-school/. DOH will hold flu vaccination clinics in 167 public schools statewide from Nov. 1 through Dec. 21, 2017.

To sign up for the free flu shots available to their children, parents or guardians should complete and sign provided consent forms, and return them to schools by the deadline, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017.

Information packets and vaccination consent forms will be distributed to parents through participating schools in early October. A fillable, electronic version of the consent form can be found online at https://vaxonlinereg.doh.hawaii.gov, and non-English translations of the consent form packet are available at http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/about-us/programs/stop-flu-at-school/.

This marks the eleventh year of the Stop Flu at School program. Since 2007, nearly 600,000 flu vaccinations have been administered at more than 300 public, private, and charter schools statewide through this voluntary program. The annual program, which provides flu vaccinations to school-age children at no cost to Hawaii families, is supported by federal funds and private contributions, resulting in a massive statewide coordination effort involving volunteers and local partnerships. Program costs have previously totaled approximately $2 million per year.

This year, the department anticipates vaccinating 35,000 public school students through the program. Flu vaccination of students at school is an effective strategy for reducing the spread of influenza in our communities and protecting those at risk of serious illness.

For more information about Stop Flu at School, visit http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/about-us/programs/stop-flu-at-school/ or call Aloha United Way’s information and referral service at 2-1-1.

Baby in Puna Catches Rat Lungworm Disease – Hawaii Department of Health Confirms 17th Case of Rat Lungworm Disease in Hawaii for 2017

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed an additional case of rat lungworm disease in an infant from the Puna District of Hawaii Island. This is the tenth laboratory-confirmed case of rat lungworm disease contracted on Hawaii Island this year, bringing the statewide total to 17 cases in 2017. After a detailed investigation, DOH learned the infant became infected likely after accidentally consuming a slug or snail.

“Kane’s slowly getting better but it will take time. He had RAT LUNGWORM for 9 DAYS & i took him to his doctor, urgent care & hilo medical center MULTIPLE TIMES before they finally listened to me & did a blood sample on him. Can you imagine if my baby would have died from this? & Me knowing that i did my best to tell doctors to check his blood because in my gut i could feel that it wasn’t the flu or him teething. I hope you guys feel real dumb for ignoring my instincts, i am glad that i was firm because the ER wanted to SEND US HOME AGAIN WITHOUT A BLOOD SAMPLE, but i refused to let that happen a 2nd time around. Any ways, i am grateful that he is a fighter & i am positive that he will make a full recovery.” Santini N Dylan Tauanuu

“This is an extremely unfortunate incident, with the infant currently hospitalized and receiving care,” said Aaron Ueno, Hawaii Island District Health Officer. “While the department is unable to provide specific information on this individual case, we can take this time to remind parents and caregivers about the importance of preventing infants and young children from putting slugs, snails, or other items in their mouths. We know that slugs, snails, and rats in all counties carry the parasite that can cause rat lungworm disease, so watching over young children is especially important.”

He added, “The Hawaii Island District Health Office is making a concerted effort to reach parents and caregivers of infants and young children by providing education and resources about rat lungworm disease prevention to our Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Early Intervention Services clients and our partners, including pediatricians and other healthcare providers.”

DOH recommends all parents and caregivers of infants and young children take extra precautions, including:

  • Watch infants, toddlers, and children carefully while they are playing and make sure they are not picking up slugs, snails, or other objects from the ground and putting those into their mouths.
  • Help children properly wash their hands after playing and/or on the ground using running water and soap.
  • When consuming food and drinks, close and seal containers when not in use to prevent slugs and snails from crawling inside, especially when left on or near the ground.

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, 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 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 in 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/.

Free Medicare Basics Seminar

Helping the community stay informed about the “what,” “when,” and “how” of Medicare is important to the members of Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union (HCFCU) and on Saturday, October 7, 9:30am – 11:30am the credit union will present a free Medicare 101 seminar. Held at HCFCU’s Kaloko facility in the John Y. Iwane Credit Union Center Training Room (73-5611 Olowalu St., Kailua Kona), this informative seminar is free to the public but with limited seating.

Please register by contacting 808-930-7700 or marketing@hicommfcu.com. The seminar is for educational and informational purposes only. No plan specific benefits or details will be shared.

“We want to help our members with essential Medicare information so that they’re as prepared as possible when they’re ready to enroll,” said HCFCU President and CEO Tricia Buskirk.

Peter Amelotte, Health Benefits Manager with Aloha Insurance Services, Inc. will answer such questions as:

  • How old do I have to be to enroll in Medicare?
  • What are my Medicare health plan options?
  • Can I have other insurance and still have Medicare?
  • What’s the difference between Medicare Part A and Medicare Part B?
  • Is prescription drug coverage required?

Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit credit union owned by its over 39,000 member/owners with branches in Honokaa, Kailua-Kona, Kaloko, Kealakekua and Kohala. In addition to complete checking and savings services, the credit union offers credit cards, auto, mortgage, construction, small business, educational and personal loans; online and mobile banking; investment services; youth programs, and supports numerous Hawaii Islandprograms and events. Membership in HCFCU is open to all Hawaii Island residents. For more information visit www.hicommfcu.com.

Class of 2021 to Recite Pharmacist Oath at UH Hilo White Coat Ceremony

Eighty-two student pharmacists will hear words of inspiration from the president of one of Hawaiʻi’s few remaining independent pharmacies at this year’s University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy (DKICP) White Coat Ceremony on October 8 in the UH Hilo Performing Arts Center. The event, which takes place from 2-4 p.m., is open to the public.

Kimberly Mikami Svetin, the third president in the 82-year history of family-run Moloka`i Drugs, will be the keynote speaker. Svetin will give the student pharmacists her view of “how to get the most out of life.” She also plans to talk about how the pharmacy staff at Hawaiʻi’s oldest independent pharmacy focuses on the community and how that benefits their personal and professional lives.

The ceremony, where new student pharmacists recite the Oath of a Pharmacist, signifies a rite of passage for individuals entering their first year in the professional program. Students will be cloaked with a white coat symbolizing their student status and the values of the profession.

Three pharmacy residents who are continuing their training with DKICP faculty on Kaua`i and O`ahu, as well as a new Ph.D. student at DKICP, also will take part in the ceremony.

Ka Haka ʻUla O Ke`elikōlani College of Hawaiian Language will perform the mele ho`okipa, or welcoming chant, Ua Ao Hawaiʻi.

The students will also be addressed by UH Hilo Interim Chancellor Marcia Sakai and DKICP Dean Carolyn Ma.

The event is sponsored exclusively by Walgreens. Erin Samura, Pharmacy Manager from Hilo, will speak on behalf of Walgreens.