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Department of Health Launches New “Prevent Diabetes Hawaii” Campaign

It is estimated that one in every two adults in Hawaii has prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, and many have not been diagnosed and may be unaware that they have it. To increase prevention and awareness, the Hawaii Department of Health is launching a new innovative media campaign on March 27 to encourage Hawaii adults to take an online Diabetes Risk Test at PreventDiabetesHawaii.com and share the results with their doctor or health care provider. Actor and comedian Frank De Lima, who has type 2 diabetes, is the spokesperson for the campaign and will appear in television ads and in print ads in malls across the state.

“Prediabetes is a serious health condition that puts people at risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, and the good news is you can reverse prediabetes with basic lifestyle changes,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, so it’s very important for people to get screened early and take action.

Prediabetes refers to having a blood sugar that is above the normal level, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. Without effective intervention, 15 to 30 percent of adults with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years. Native Hawaiians, Other Pacific Islanders, and Filipinos have the highest rates of type 2 diabetes, followed by Japanese. Furthermore, people of Asian descent tend to develop prediabetes at a lower body weight than other ethnicities, making them especially susceptible.

“Your risk for prediabetes is increased if you are overweight, 45 years or older, have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes, are not physically active, smoke, and ever had gestational diabetes,” said Lola Irvin, Administrator for the Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division. “Obesity and diabetes are generally known as “twin” epidemics, and this is true also for Hawaii.”

The Prevent Diabetes Hawaii campaign asks everyone to participate in simple 30-second online Diabetes Risk Test and then email, print or download their Diabetes Risk Test results to a computer, smartphone, or tablet to facilitate a later conversation with a doctor or health care provider. The website also contains ideas and tips for individual lifestyle change, as well as information on nationally recognized lifestyle change programs that are available at local community health centers throughout the state, the YMCA, and some hospitals. A portal for health care providers contains links to download campaign materials for waiting rooms and doctors’ offices along with resources to facilitate patient follow-up, such as email templates and phone call scripts.

Focus group testing with adults on Oahu informed the campaign’s development. Prevent Diabetes Hawaii is funded by a combination of state general funds and a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more information about the campaign or to view the television and print ads, go to www.PreventDiabetesHawaii.com.

Hawaii Death With Dignity Bill Killed

The House Health Committee today deferred Senate Bill 1129, the medical aid in dying bill, effectively killing the measure for this session.

In announcing the decision, Rep. Della Au Belatti, Chair of the House Health Committee, said this was not the time to move the “aid in dying” bill forward.

“Our community is divided on this issue. Our job is to consider a full range of policy options and consequences, and base our decisions on data and evidence,” Belatti said. “We must balance the right to choose with protecting those who are most vulnerable. There must be a broader discussion about safeguards and oversight to this ‘aid in dying’ proposal.”

SB 1129 SD2 would establish a medical aid in dying act that establishes a regulatory process under which an adult resident of the State with a medically confirmed terminal disease may obtain a prescription for medication to be self-administered to end the patient’s life.

Dozens of community members on both sides of the issues testified before the committee.

Several committee members said there were problems with the details in Senate Bill 1129 and the issues needs more discussion and input from healthcare providers and government regulators.

Currently, six states have legalized aid in dying — Oregon, Washington, Colorado, California, Montana, and Vermont.

UH Hilo Student Pharmacists Named in National Residency Competition First Round

Student pharmacists from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo were “matched” with residency programs in round one of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Matching Program. More students from the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy (DKICP) have a chance to be placed when the second group of matches is announced after April 12.


Residencies are highly competitive opportunities for Pharm.D. graduates to build on their education in a clinical setting with an experienced mentor. The ASHP Resident Matching Program (the “Match”) places applicants into pharmacy residency training positions in the United States. The Match includes both postgraduate year one (PGY1) and postgraduate year two (PGY2) pharmacy residencies.

About two-thirds of the 5,752 applicants nationwide were successfully placed in round one. Twenty-eight student pharmacists from DKICP participated in round one of the Match, with 13 placed. The remaining 15 students will have to reapply to be eligible for round two.

The Match, which is administered by National Matching Services Inc., is sponsored and supervised by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

Successful applicants thus far include:

Class of 2017 – Year One Residencies (PGY1): Trenton Aoki, Providence St. Peter Hospital, Olympia WA; Mark Allen Bibera, University of California Davis Health System, Sacramento, CA; Megan Calderwood, Indian Health Service, Gnome, Alaska; Mari Louise Cid, University Maryland School of Pharmacy, Baltimore, MD; Christopher Diaz, University of Washington Medicine, Seattle, WA; Tiajana Gonzales, Samford University McWhorter School of Pharmacy, Birmingham, AL; David Khan, Indian Health Service, Gallup, NM; Kelsea Mizusawa, University of Hawai’i at Hilo, Hilo HI; Lauryn Mow, Providence Centralia Hospital, Centralia, WA, Nadine So, University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hilo, HI; Zi Zhang, The Queen’s Medical Center, Honolulu, HI; and Nick Nguyen, Genentech, Industry Intership, Palo Alto, CA.

Class of 2016 – Year Two Residencies (PGY2): Walter Domingo Stanford Health Care, Stanford, CA. Specialty: Oncology; Alex Guimaraes, Fellowhip Tricore Reference Laboratory Clinical Translational Care Fellow, University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy, New Mexico; Jairus Nathan Mahoe, Palomar Health Escondido, CA. Specialty: Health System Pharmacy Administration; Bert Matsuo, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA. Specialty: Cardiology.

Class of 2011: Matthew Kirkland, Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, Biloxi, MS. PGY1 with Mental Health Focus

DKICP/QMC – Year Two (PGY2): Christine Luong, The Queen’s Medical Center, Honolulu, HI. Specialty: Critical Care.

Commentary – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: CBO Confirms AHCA Is Bad Deal for American People

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) released the following statement after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis on the American Health Care Act (AHCA):

“The CBO released the AHCA cost estimate today, confirming what many have been saying—the AHCA is really a handout to insurance and pharmaceutical companies that will further exacerbate the burden on American families. While corporations rake in over $600 billion in tax breaks, our seniors will see their costs rise and low-income Americans will see their coverage drop completely. The proposed AHCA would slash funding for Medicaid by $880 billion over the next decade, threatening the health of millions of vulnerable Americans, and shifting costs to state and local governments that already face tight budgets. Seniors could see their premiums increase up to five times under new age-rating rules that do nothing except continue lining the pockets of insurance companies.

“While I have long called for serious improvements to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is imperative that any reforms to our healthcare system actually serve the health and wellbeing of people. This bill does the opposite—it will have a negative impact on the people of Hawaiʻi and our country. I strongly oppose this harmful legislation, and will continue working for true healthcare reform that puts people above the profits of corporations.”

Click to view report

Background: The AHCA is opposed by AARP, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Hospital Association, the American Nurses Association, the AFL-CIO, and others.

VIDEO: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Honors Life of Maui’s Trucker Dukes on House Floor

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) spoke on the House floor today in memory of 3-year-old Trucker Dukes from Maui, who lost his life on Friday, March 3 after battling childhood cancer.

Trucker’s spirit of resilience and open heart became an inspiration for people across the country after he was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a stage-four adrenal cancer, at 19 months old. A celebration of life honoring Trucker will be held tomorrow morning, March 10, in Kīhei.

“Today, let us honor and recognize a young Maui boy whose life touched hearts around the world and whose legacy will live on through the millions that he inspired.

“Trucker Dukes was not quite four years old when he took his last breath this past Friday, after a painful battle with Stage-4 Neuroblastoma and two years of intense treatment.

“Trucker’s dad is a firefighter and—like father, like son—Trucker loved firetrucks. When Trucker went to New York for treatment, the New York Fire Department coordinated a very special 3rd birthday party celebration, and swore him in as an honorary firefighter.

“After Trucker passed away, his parents Shauna and Joshua shared this message: “If there’s one thing, I hope it is that you love a little harder, a little better. Go home, stop the craziness in your life and just kiss your loved ones more, tell them you love them more. None of us are promised tomorrow.”

Hawaii Department of Health Lifts Suspension of Meadow Gold Dairies Two-Percent Reduced Fat Milk

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) today lifted the suspension of Meadow Gold Dairies’ two-percent reduced fat milk products. The company may produce, sell and distribute two-percent reduced fat milk.

Samples of two-percent reduced fat milk taken from the Meadow Gold milk plant in Honolulu on March 1, 2, and 6 were tested and found in compliance with Coliform counts of less than 1/ml. The maximum allowed Coliform limit for pasteurized milk is 10/ml.

The Meadow Gold milk plant in Honolulu was also inspected on March 1 in response to the Feb. 27 suspension and was found to be in substantial compliance with Hawaii Administrative Rules and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Pasteurized Milk Ordinance.

All other milk products from Meadow Gold Dairies have met state and federal standards required for distribution and sale.

39th Annual Golf Tournament Supports Brantley Center

The Brantley Center, a services provider for people with disabilities, will host its 39th Annual Golf Tournament at Waikoloa Village Golf Course on Sunday, April 23, 2017. The tournament starts at 8 a.m. with a shotgun start, two-person best ball modified format. Entry fees are $125 per player for golf, lunch and prizes, including a chance to win $10,000 for hole-in-one.

39th Annual Golf Tournament supports the Brantley Center’s work with people with disabilities. PHOTO: Courtesy The Brantley Center

Designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr., the Waikoloa Village Golf Course opened in 1972 and is known to be enough for the serious golfer, and a fun experience for beginners as well. The 6,971-yard, par 72 layout includes wide, forgiving landing areas, and well-bunkered and undulating greens with picturesque ocean and mountain views.

Brantley Center, founded in 1964 by Sergeant Gilbert Brantley, a former National Guard Advisor, provides adult day programs for clients with physical, emotional or mental disabilities. In a safe and supportive environment, men and women from North Hilo, Hāmākua and Kohala receive independent life skills and employment training, vocational rehabilitation, and help transitioning into the regular job market. Work opportunity is also available for some clients through the Center’s business services, such as aquaponic lettuce, auto detailing, janitorial, lawn and landscaping services.

A 501 (C) 3 non-profit organization administered by a volunteer Board of Directors, Brantley Center depends on government funding and grants from charitable organizations such as Hawaii Island United Way. The golf tournament and other fundraisers throughout the year fill a critical gap in budgetary need.

Golfers and non-golfers are invited to contribute to the benefit golf tournament, and various sponsorship levels are available. Organizers also welcome silent auction items, gift certificates and other donations at all price levels, to generate enthusiasm and give everyone a chance to participate.

For more information, please contact Golf Tournament Chairman Roland Kaneshiro, 987-7712, or call the Brantley Center, 775-7245.

Sponsors Sought for Summer Food Service Program to Provide Meals for Children During Summer Break

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is seeking sponsor organizations on all islands to help provide children in low-income communities with reduced-price meals during the summer months.  The SFSP provides nutritious meals that help children to learn, play and grow during the summer break when many schools are not in session.

Schools, public agencies, and private nonprofit organizations may apply to be SFSP sponsors. Sponsoring organizations receive reimbursements for serving healthy meals and snacks at approved sites to children and teenagers, 18 years and younger. Photo Credit: Department of Education

Schools, public agencies, and private nonprofit organizations may apply to be SFSP sponsors.  Sponsoring organizations receive reimbursements for serving healthy meals and snacks at approved sites to children and teenagers, 18 years and younger.  Sponsors are encouraged to provide educational or recreational activities.

In 2016, a daily average of 12,829 children, 18 years and younger, participated in Summer Meals Programs. This average increased by 1,125 children per day from the previous year. Photo Credit: Department of Education

“Summer food service programs are vital to many of our keiki who normally rely on school meals for most of their daily intake,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.  “Well-rounded, nutritious meals are a priority for children who need regular fuel for learning, physical activities and growth.”

In 2016, a daily average of 12,829 children, 18 years and younger, participated in Summer Meals Programs.  This average increased by 1,125 children per day from the previous year.  SFSP sites are often located at nonprofit organizations, preschools, churches, parks and housing facilities and the Hawaii State Department of Education’s Seamless Summer Option provides meals at select school locations.

The Hawaii Child Nutrition Programs (HCNP) will conduct workshops for new and returning sponsors on Maui, Hawaii, Kauai and Oahu from March 14 to 24.  Personnel responsible for administering the SFSP will be required to attend.

For more information about SFSP, contact Jennifer Dang at Hawaii Child Nutrition Programs at 587-3600.

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Attorney General Chin Joins 39 Other State Attorneys General in Lawsuit Over Inflated Drug Prices

Attorney General Doug Chin today announced that Hawaii joined 39 states yesterday in a federal antitrust lawsuit over inflated drug prices. The lawsuit alleges that six generic drug-makers entered into illegal conspiracies to unreasonably restrain trade, artificially inflate prices and reduce competition in the United States for two generic drugs: doxycycline hyclate delayed release (an antibiotic) and glyburide (a diabetes medication).

Yesterday’s federal court filing amends a lawsuit initially filed in December 2016. The December 2016 complaint alleged violations of federal antitrust law and included 19 plaintiff states. The amended complaint increases from 20 to 40 the number of plaintiff states in the lawsuit. It also alleges violations of state antitrust laws and state consumer protection laws. The defendants include Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Aurobindo Pharma USA, Inc., Citron Pharma, LLC, Mayne Pharma (USA), Inc., Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.

Connecticut is leading the multistate group of plaintiff states, consisting of Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

In July 2014, Connecticut began to investigate the reasons behind suspicious price increases of certain generic pharmaceuticals. According to the complaint, the investigation, which is still ongoing as to a number of additional generic drugs, generic drug companies and key executives, uncovered evidence of a well-coordinated and long-running conspiracy to fix prices and allocate markets for doxycycline hyclate delayed release and glyburide.

The amended complaint further alleges that the defendants routinely coordinated their schemes through direct interaction with their competitors at industry trade shows, customer conferences and other events, as well as through direct email, phone and text message communications. The complaint alleges that the anticompetitive conduct – including efforts to fix and maintain prices, allocate markets and otherwise thwart competition – continues to cause significant harm to the country’s healthcare system.

The lawsuit was filed under seal in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. A redacted copy of the amended complaint is attached.

Hawaii Department of Human Services Adopts Safe Sleep Rules

The Department of Human Services has adopted safe sleep provisions into its administrative rules, further strengthening its responsibility to keep infants safe in regulated child care settings. These amendments codify the department’s decade-long commitment to ensuring all licensed and registered child care providers follow safe sleep best practices. The rule went into effect on Friday, February 24, 2017.

“This department is committed to the health and safety of Hawai‘i’s children. These rules embody our commitment by making explicit our department’s practice of requiring licensed and registered child care providers to use safe sleep best practices. We believe these rules are the natural evolution of our dedication to safe sleep practices in licensing child care providers,” said DHS Director Pankaj Bhanot.

This act of codifying DHS practices responds to community concerns and reinforces that the department values safe sleep practices in all child care settings.

DHS has prioritized safe sleep practices since 2005 when the department began including them as part of the child care licensing protocol. The national Safe Sleep campaign began targeting child care settings just a few years prior.

DHS licenses various child care settings, including family care homes, group child care centers and homes, before- and after-school programs, and infant and toddler child care centers. The department’s Child Care Licensing staff conduct initial, annual and biennial monitoring visits at each home and facility to ensure providers are compliant with laws, regulations and best practices. Since 2005, licensing workers have educated providers about the importance of safe sleep practices and verified their compliance.

These protocols contributed to zero child fatalities in licensed and registered child care settings in 2016.

You can access the rules (17-891.1 and 17-895) here on our website. More information about the Department of Human Services is available at humanservices.hawaii.gov.

Hawaii Department of Health Orders Meadow Gold Dairies to Stop Distribution and Sale of 2% Reduced Fat Milk

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has ordered Meadow Gold Dairies to stop its distribution and sale of two-percent reduced fat milk. DOH issued a Cease and Desist Order to the company today after laboratory results from routine milk samples exceeded standard limits for Coliform bacteria.

“Milk production is regulated with routine testing both at the farm and after packaging to ensure a safe product,” said Peter Oshiro, program manager of the DOH Sanitation Branch. “Department of Health inspectors will work with Meadow Gold Dairies to investigate the possible source of contamination, approve a plan of correction, and conduct further testing to confirm the company meets the standards to resume two-percent reduced fat milk distribution and sale.”

Samples of two-percent reduced fat milk taken from Meadow Gold Dairies on Jan. 19, Feb. 6 and 22, 2017, revealed excessive Coliform counts of more than 150/ml, 130/ml and more than 150/ml respectively. The maximum allowed Coliform limit for pasteurized milk is 10/ml. Coliform is used an indicator of post-pasteurization contamination.

DOH conducts monthly testing of samples of all Grade A raw and pasteurized milk produced at dairy farms and milk plants in Hawaii. State and Federal regulations require that samples be taken a minimum of four out of every six months, though most jurisdictions in the nation, like Hawaii, conduct sampling every month. DOH may also accelerate routine sampling of a specific product whenever product samples do not meet required standards.

Hawaii Administrative Rules Title 11 Chapter15 states that the DOH may suspend the distribution and sale of a particular milk product produced by a milk plant, whenever the product is in violation three times out of the last five consecutive samples for the first three Critical Control Point (CCP) standards listed below.

Critical Control Point/Critical Limits:

  • Temperature – 45°F or less
  • Bacterial Limits -1 0,000/ml or less
  • Coliform – 10/ml or less
  • Phosphatase – 1mcg/ml or less
  • Antibiotics – No Positive results on drug residue detection

To resume distribution and sale of two-percent reduced fat milk, Meadow Gold Dairies must pass health inspections and undergo additional testing of product samples. All other milk products from Meadow Gold Dairies meet state and federal standards required for distribution and sale.

West Hawaii Community Health Center Expanding – Informational Meeting Planned

West Hawaii Community Health Center (WHCHC) will soon open the doors to its newly expanded Waikoloa location, offering a wide variety of medical and dental services to area residents.

West Hawaii Community Health Center

An informational community meeting will be held Tuesday, March 7 at Waikoloa Elementary School cafeteria starting at 6:30 pm. Interested community members are invited to attend to learn more about the new services being offered.

The Waikoloa Elementary School cafeteria is located at 68-1730 Hooko Street in Waikoloa Village. Refreshments will be offered.

West Hawaii Community Health Center board members, management staff, as well as medical and dental staff will be on-hand to answer questions and share more information.

To learn more about this event, please call 808-331-6472, or visit WestHawaiichc.org

Zumba at The Shops – Yoga at the Farm

The Shops at Mauna Lani premiers Zumba Fitness on Sunday afternoons starting March 5, 2017, in partnership with Dance 4 Action. Dance 4 Action combines Zumba and fundraising for community nonprofits on Hawaii Island. Their August 2016 Zumba event raised $3,500, which were much needed funds for the West Hawaii Domestic Abuse Shelters.

Photo: Courtesy Dance 4 Action

The Shops is proud to partner with Dance 4 Action, and to offer creative physical fitness activities for residents and guests of the Kohala Coast.  Participants are encouraged to wear sneakers, bring a water bottle and towels. The cost of the class is $10 for adults and children are free. Check-in and registration begins at 3:30 p.m., class takes plance 4-5 p.m. at Center Stage.

For more information, contact Ronnie Claveran, 222-7103.

Discover a whole new way to start your Fridays. Kona Historical Society invites the public to its Kona Coffee Living History Farm in Captain Cook, where yoga instructor Elizabeth “Liz” Aschenbrenner guides guests every Friday morning through a series of uplifting stretches, toning poses and peaceful meditations during Yoga On The Farm.

These “drop in” outdoor hatha yoga classes strive to benefit the minds and bodies of beginners and experts alike. Each class, participants greet the sun with sun salutations, as well as enjoy a variety of poses, including the warrior series, cat, cow, downward dog and child’s pose. Aschenbrenner is a certified yoga instructor who has been practicing yoga for more than 20 years. Her style of yoga aims to help you connect with your breath while developing strength, mobility and stability. Her classes are truly accessible to all, regardless of age, body type or fitness level. Still, Aschenbrenner advises participants to first check with their doctor before starting something new, including yoga.

Yoga On The Farm participants practice yoga barefoot and on the farmhouse lawn. Kona Historical Society has a couple of yoga mats for newcomers to use, but if you plan to attend regularly, please consider bringing your own mat. After class, all participants enjoy a complimentary cup of 100 percent Kona coffee.

Yoga On The Farm supports Kona Historical Society’s education and outreach efforts. It is a membership benefit and free for all Kona Historical Society members. Classes cost $10 each for nonmembers. Annual Kona Historical Society membership starts at $35 and information is available at www.konahistorical.org/index.php/khs/membership. Reservations are not required to attend Yoga On The Farm.

The Yoga On The Farm schedule for March is as follows:

  • March 3 – from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m.
  • March 10 – from 8 to 9:30 a.m.
  • March 17 – from 8 to 9:30 a.m.
  • March 24 – from 8 to 9:30 a.m.
  • March 31 – from 8 to 9:30 a.m.

The Kona Coffee Living History Farm is located at 82-6199 Mamalahoa Highway in Captain Cook, near mile marker 110. Kona Historical Society is a community-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and Smithsonian Museum affiliate that has spent the past four decades collecting, preserving and sharing the history of the Kona districts and their rich cultural heritage within Hawaii.

Kupuna Caregivers Assistance Bill Clears Budget Committees

Today, the House Finance committee and the Senate Ways and Means committee approved legislation to assist families caring for aging seniors in their home.

The Kupuna Caregivers assistance bill HB607 / SB534 received strong support from the community, with dozens of allies, advocates and individuals from across the state, submitting more than a hundred pages of testimony in favor of the bills. Many families who would be helped by this legislation shared their personal experiences and the challenges they have faced, trying to balance their work and personal lives, while caring for their loved ones at home.
The strong show of support for the bill is consistent with a recent Ward Research poll that found that over 90% of those who work at least 30 hours per week and qualify for caregivers’ assistance, welcome the relief that SB534/HB607 would afford them

Dr. Clementina Ceria-Ulep, who chairs the long term care task force at Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE), welcomed the passage of the bill through these critical committees as another step forward in what has been a more than a two-decade-old effort to secure assistance for unpaid family caregivers.

“The need to address the care of our kupuna has been growing steadily,” she said. “This is an important step towards addressing that need by giving people the ability to pay for trained caregivers from time to time so that they can attend to other aspects of their work and personal life. It’s a bit of respite for caregivers that can go a long way, and we applaud the members of the committee, and the committee chairs, Representative Sylvia Luke and Senator Jill Tokuda, for moving the bill forward,” she added.

The bills, HB607 and SB534, now move on to be heard by the entire House and Senate, respectively.

Hawaii Delegation Introduces Legislation to Protect Drinking Water and Improve Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility

The Hawai‘i congressional delegation introduced legislation to ensure the Navy, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) meet their obligations to the State of Hawai‘i to protect drinking water and improve the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Oahu.

Inside one of the Red Hill fuel tanks.

“The EPA, the Navy, and the State agree that protecting the aquifer that supplies Oahu’s drinking water is essential,” said U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i). “Our bill firms up that commitment into federal law by making sure the agencies responsible for improving Red Hill have the federal funding they need to implement the actions that are agreed to.”

“Red Hill is critical military infrastructure and we want the Navy to succeed in successfully remediating environmental concerns associated with past fuel leaks above Oahu’s aquifers,” said U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01). “Working together, this will be a win-win for military readiness and Oahu residents.”

“Completing the necessary infrastructure upgrades at Red Hill Fuel Facility will safeguard our water and environment, while also protecting a critical asset to our national security,” said U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i). “Providing budget flexibility and conducting strict oversight of EPA and DOD’s progress towards meeting their commitments is an appropriate way to stretch a short supply of critical federal dollars.”

“These fuel storage tanks sit above aquifers that provide drinking water for up to 30% of Oahu’s residents,” said U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02). “It’s essential the Department of Defense commit the necessary resources to eliminate any threat these tanks pose to our most precious resource – water.”

The legislation, written and introduced by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, ensures the Navy, DLA, and other federal agencies charged with protecting Oahu’s drinking water from fuel leaks follow a set of actions the agencies agreed to take following the January 2014 leak of jet fuel from the Red Hill facility. The Navy’s investigation of the January 2014 leak determined that it was the result of contractor error. In September 2015, the Navy, DLA, and EPA entered into an Administrative Order on Consent/Statement of Work (AOC/SOW) with the State of Hawai‘i’s Department of Health (DOH). That agreement establishes a roadmap for how the Navy and DLA will protect Oahu’s drinking water from future fuel leaks by making improvements to Red Hill, including the fuel tanks. The bill requires the Department of Defense, which includes the Navy and DLA, and the EPA to include the necessary funding in their respective budgets to make the improvements identified in the agreement.

U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Hawaii Senate Committee Passes Medical Aid in Dying Bill

In the hearing today by the Senate Committee on Commerce Consumer Protection (CPH), SB1129 SD1 was passed with amendments that would establish a medical aid in dying act under which a terminally ill adult resident may obtain a prescription for medication to end the patient’s life.

SB1129 SD1 is modeled on the Oregon statute and includes safeguards to protect patients from misuse.  These safeguards include confirmation by two providers (physicians and APRN’s) of the patient’s diagnosis, prognosis, mental competence, and voluntariness of the request; multiple requests by the patient: an oral request followed by a signed written request that is witnessed by two people, one of whom must be unrelated to the patient, and a subsequent oral restatement of the request; and two waiting periods between the requests and the writing of the prescription.  At all times the patient retains the right to rescind the request and is under no obligation to fill the prescription or ingest the medication.  Amendments include authorizing APRN as a consulting provider and allowing state identification cards as an acceptable document to prove residency in the State of Hawai‘i.

More than 300 people had signed up to testify on the bill, many which were emotional and thought-provoking both in support and in opposition of the measure.

“This measure is simply one that gives people a choice in end of life care,” said CPH Chair Sen. Rosalyn Baker (Dist. 6 – South and West Maui), “We have wonderful laws on the books with regards to palliative care and setting out their wishes for treatment, resuscitation and the like in an advance healthcare directive. But I think people want that ultimate choice if they have a debilitating, terminal illness and would like to have some control over their last days of life.  This is what SB1129 allows them to do.”

SB1129 SD1 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor (JDL).

Hawaii Department of Health Approves Pono Life Sciences Maui LLC to Acquire and Cultivate Medical Marijuana

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) today issued a Notice to Proceed to Acquire and Cultivate Marijuana to Pono Life Sciences Maui LLC for their production center on Maui. Pono Life Sciences Maui is the fourth licensee to receive notice from the state and the second Maui licensee to meet all requirements to begin growing marijuana.

Pono Life Sciences Maui is now authorized to acquire and grow marijuana seeds, clones and plants, for the purpose of providing marijuana and marijuana products to qualified patients registered with the department’s Medical Marijuana Patient Registry Program. This month, in addition to Pono Life Sciences Maui, DOH issued Notices to Proceed to Maui Grown Therapies, Aloha Green Holdings, and Manoa Botanicals for production centers on Maui and Oahu.

To receive a Notice to Proceed from DOH, dispensary production centers must comply with statutory and regulatory requirements that include building a secure, enclosed indoor facility; operating a computer software tracking system that interfaces with the state’s system and submits current inventory data of all marijuana seeds, plants and manufactured products in the production center; and authorization from the Narcotics Enforcement Division of the Hawaii State Department of Public Safety.

More information on the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program is available at http://health.hawaii.gov/medicalmarijuanadispensary/

A total of eight medical marijuana dispensary licenses were issued in April 2016. Three dispensary licenses for the City and County of Honolulu were issued to Aloha Green Holdings, Inc.; Manoa Botanicals, LLC; and TCG Retro Market 1, LLC dba Cure Oahu. Two licenses for the County of Hawaii were issued to Hawaiian Ethos, LLC and Lau Ola, LLC. Two licenses for the County of Maui were issued to Maui Wellness Group, LLC and Pono Life Sciences Maui, LLC. One license for the County of Kauai was issued to Green Aloha, Ltd.

Each dispensary licensee is allowed to operate two production centers and two retail sites for a total of 16 production centers and 16 retail dispensary locations statewide. Each production center may grow up to 3,000 marijuana plants.

Gabbard-Backed Bill to Expedite Veterans Claims Process Passes House

Legislation cosponsored by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) to streamline the veterans claims process unanimously passed the House today. The bipartisan WINGMAN Act (H.R.512), which would allow congressional offices to directly access information on behalf of a constituent without having to go through a middle-man at the VA bureaucracy, now moves to the U.S. Senate for consideration.

In a speech on the House floor, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said:

“One of the things I appreciate most about the job that I have to represent Hawaiʻi’s Second District is to be able to respond to and provide assistance to the hundreds of veterans from across my state that contact our office every single year. They call to ask for help with things like compensation and pension issues, healthcare, mileage reimbursement—especially for our veterans who live on the neighboring islands where they don’t have a VA clinic on island—education, home loan benefits, and more. This is a responsibility as a Member of Congress and as a fellow veteran that I take very seriously.

“Right now, if a veteran contacts my office for assistance, we are required to go directly through the Congressional Liaison at the VA. We act as veterans advocates to try to get answers for them on things that they haven’t been able to get answers on and things they haven’t heard back on.

“Too often, we’re faced with bureaucratic layers within the VA and a slow turnaround that leaves congressional staff, like mine and my colleagues’, jumping through hoops to access basic but critical information on behalf of our veterans and their families. At times, we have waited for months to get answers from the VA on behalf of a Hawaiʻi veteran for something that should be a quick turnaround, like a status update.

“This is unacceptable, and it’s why I’m proud to cosponsor the WINGMAN Act, legislation introduced by my friend and colleague Ted Yoho of Florida, which allows us to cut through the red tape and ensure that our certified caseworkers within our offices can provide quicker, more efficient and effective service to our veterans. It would help streamline the veterans claims process by allowing congressional offices, on behalf of our veteran constituents, to directly access the status of pending claims, rating decisions, statement of the case, and more.

“I urge my colleagues to support this common sense legislation, so that all of us working here in the people’s house can better serve our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our communities and our country.”

Background: The WINGMAN Act would streamline the veterans claims process between congressional offices and their constituents by eliminating the requirement to use the VA as a middle-man. Under WINGMAN, certified constituent advocates would be able to directly access the status of pending claims, medical records, rating decisions, statement of the case, supplementary statement of the case, notice of disagreement, and Form-9 files within a reasonable amount of time, without having to go through a middle-man at the VA.

Each year, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s office helps hundreds of veterans get assistance from the VA and other federal agencies. Constituent advocates are located in every county, and hold regular “office hours” to help constituents, including veterans, with federal agency casework. For a list of upcoming office hours, click here. For information on how the congresswoman and staff can assist constituents, click here.

Aloha Grown 2017 Malama Honua Fund to Give Away Five (5) $500 Awards

The Aloha Grown Malama Honua Fund is once again giving away five (5) $500 awards to local non-profits, schools, organizations or initiatives on the Big Island that embody Aloha Grown’s philosophy to Support Local. Sustain the Aina. Share the Aloha.

Interested groups must complete an application form and write a one-page essay explaining how their organization follows Aloha Grown’s philosophy. Essays must include the organization’s mission and vision, along with the specific project, program and/or effort that the $500 award would be used to fund.

“Aloha Grown is committed to supporting efforts to care for our island, our people and our culture. That is why 2% of every Aloha Grown sale goes to the Malama Honua Fund, which awards local nonprofits, schools, organizations and initiatives that embody our philosophy.”­­

Previous award winners have included Kohala Elementary School, Punana Leo o Waimea, Hawaii Institute of Pacific Agriculture, Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin, Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School, and many more. Their sustainability programs and efforts have included community gardens, aquaponics systems, keiki farm stands, culinary programs, and outdoor educational “classrooms”.

All submissions are due by March 31, 2017. The five (5) selected recipients of the 2017 Aloha Grown Malama Honua Fund Awards will be contacted by April 28, 2017.

For more information on Aloha Grown or to see previous year’s Malama Honua Fund award winners, visit www.alohagrown.com.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Address U.S. Nursing Shortage

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02), a co-chair of the House Nursing Caucus, joined fellow lawmakers in introducing the bipartisan Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act (H.R.959). The bipartisan legislation would reauthorize federal funding for nursing workforce and education programs to help grow and support the nursing workforce in the United States.

“Nurses are the heart of our healthcare system, and one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. As Hawaiʻi and states across the country face serious nursing shortages, it’s critical we support Title VIII nursing programs that help recruit, train and retain our nurses, especially in our rural and underserved communities,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “This bill will help ensure that Hawaiʻi’s nurses and future nurses get the support they need to continue to serve our communities across the state.”

“In Hawaiʻi, nurses are the largest licensed healthcare profession and work in all healthcare settings, from hospitals to home health to school nursing, and work in all areas of the state. As the healthcare needs of the state grow, including the increased demand for primary care, extended care, long term care, and geriatric nursing, nurses can serve to meet these changing demands. Educational pathways, tuition support and loan repayment programs for nurses and nurse faculty, and recruitment and retention programs are critical to ensuring that our nursing workforce in Hawaiʻi is adequate and nimble to the needs of our changing healthcare environment,” said Laura Reichhardt, Director of the Hawaiʻi State Center for Nursing.

Background: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Registered Nurses (RNs) is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012 to 2022. At the same time, the Bureau predicts there will be over 1 million job openings for RNs in 2022 due to the increasing demand for nurses.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has consistently prioritized Title VIII nursing workforce programs in annual appropriations bills. Administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration, Title VIII programs have supported the recruitment, retention, and distribution of highly-educated professionals who comprise our nation’s nursing workforce for more than 50 years. Title VIII programs bolster nursing education at all levels, from entry level preparation through graduate study, and provide support for institutions that educate nurses for practice in rural and medically underserved communities. These programs are designed to address specific needs within the nursing workforce and America’s patient population, and are, therefore, a direct investment in the nation’s health.

The legislation is endorsed by the American Nurses Association, the American Association of the Colleges of Nursing, and more than 50 other national nursing organizations.