It’s been six months since I was able to see a therapist, and I’m one of the lucky ones.
“This is a message for Beth Fukumoto,” said a weary voice.
My appointment was scheduled for September 14th, but when I called to reschedule, the earliest available was February 9th.
The Kaiser strike ended in late February, making it the longest strike by mental health workers in US history. It focused on absurd patient-to-provider ratios and months of waiting time, and based on my own experience, the strike was completely justified.
Over the past seven years, I have seen a therapist once to four times a month. My therapist has helped me change negative thought patterns, overcome social anxiety, and manage emotional distress.
These 6 months were the longest I’ve been without a reservation.
Still, in Hawaii, I’m one of the lucky ones.
Community First’s July 2022 Access to Care survey found that nearly 3 in 10 Hawaii residents report that they or a family member need counseling or coping skills. Health care providers said mental health counseling was the most needed specialty in Hawaii (78%) followed closely by psychiatry (73%).
Similarly, Mental Health America’s 2023 Access to Care Rankings showed that 187,000 adults in Hawaii have a mental health condition, with 20% reporting an unmet need for treatment. .
Hawaii’s mental health provider to patient ratio is 1:360, slightly higher than the national average of 1:350. This ratio results in fewer appointments for existing patients and longer waiting lists for new patients. Hawaii Pacific Health’s provider search tool does not show behavioral health professionals or psychiatrists accepting new patients.
A recent call to the Queen’s Patient Support Center also yielded no results after several calls to providers. You can find the best results in the provider search that indicate that they accept .
Of course, latency can still be significant.
No specific statistics on latency are available. However, according to Kumi Macdonald, NAMI Hawaii executive his director, the organization has heard: Some people, especially those on neighboring islands and those with Medicaid or Medicare, will have to wait even longer. “
The problem is clear. The lack of mental health support in Hawaii crossed crisis levels long ago.And Hawaii politicians seem to be taking this session seriously.
In their January addresses to the state legislature, both Gov. Josh Greene and Chief Justice Mark Lechtenwald emphasized the state’s urgent need for mental health resources. On Tuesday, Hawaii lawmakers passed a series of bills that try to move the needle.
While each bill may have an impact, these three have the greatest potential to increase bookability for Hawaii residents suffering from mental illness.
Senate Bill 164 allocates unspecified funds to the State of Hawaii Loan Repayment Program to assist medical professionals, including mental health professionals. This bill is the best known of the three bills as the program has already helped 76 of his practitioners since 2012.
The governor’s budget calls for $10 million in 2024 and $20 million in 2025 for the program. However, the original bill included him for $1 million. I’m hoping the House Finance Committee will add more funding to the program before it passes the budget bill into the Senate next week.
Senate Bill 320 establishes a working group to consider adopting an Interjurisdictional Agreement on Psychology, an interstate agreement to promote the practice of psychology across state borders. Commissioning this research will not have immediate consequences. But if it finally joins the Compact as the original bill was intended, it would expand the pool of resident mental health providers.
36 states have already signed. However, Massachusetts, Alaska, and Oregon, which have the lowest patient-to-provider ratios, are not members. The Compact may not deliver the desired results without support from states with more resources.
House Bill 1300 allows psychologists and other mental health professionals provisional or sub-level licenses to be paid and qualified while they are in the process of meeting requirements for supervisory experience. If approved, this bill could rapidly expand the behavioral health workforce and reduce wait times. According to the Hawaii Psychological Association, the bill would “substantially increase the speed at which trained, qualified, qualified, and culturally aware practitioners can join the workforce and meet Hawaii’s needs.” let’s
Of these three claims, HB 1300 offers the most immediate relief. But each of these options addresses the ongoing provider shortage and allows her 69% of untreated Hawaiian adults suffering from mental illness to seek and find care. Is required.
Civil Beat Community Health Insurance is supported by the Atherton Family Foundation, Swain Family Fund of Hawaii Community Foundation, Cook Foundation and Papa Ola Lokahi.