State roundup for November 13


State homeless numbers decline

HONOLULU (AP) — The number of homeless Hawaiians receiving assistance from public agencies fell slightly in the last three years, but advocates say a strong need remains for affordable low-income housing.

A study by the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the state Department of Human Services concluded that homeless families and individuals had shorter stays in shelters and more found permanent housing.

“Our homeless situation is not worsening,” said lead author Sarah Yuan, an associate specialist with the university’s Center on the Family.

However, policymakers must aggressively work to help families climb above the poverty line, Yuan said.

“We still have people, constantly, continuously falling into this homeless situation,” she said. “There is a misconception that a lot of people … they just stay homeless and they refuse help, and they’re utilizing the state’s resources.”

The study, conducted every year since 2006, recorded 13,639 people who received help from a homeless outreach program in fiscal year 2013. That was 2.4 percent fewer than the previous year.

The number who stayed at a publicly funded shelter increased by 2.2 percent. Yuan said that means more homeless people moved off the streets and into emergency and transitional shelters where it’s more likely they could find permanent homes.

Many assaults at state hospital

KANEOHE, Oahu (AP) — Some Hawaii State Hospital employees say frequent assaults from patients are keeping them away from work for months, even years.

According to the state, there have been 90 assaults on staff by patients as of the end of August at the state’s only public mental hospital. Last year, there were 120 and in 2011 there were 132.

Dr. Scott Miscovich, who is treating employees who have been injured at the hospital in the last eight months, said he can’t send them back to a dangerous environment.

Emelinda Yarte has been out of work for nearly four years because of an attack in December 2009.

The psychiatric technician was leading a group of mental patients up some stairs when she saw a patient punching a worker.

“I went back to help and then he slammed me on the wall and that’s when my jaw got dislocated,” she said.

Yarte said she suffered panic attacks when she tried to go back to the hospital.

Her psychologist diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Nobody should have to go to work and not know if they’re going to get kicked in the head or punched or have to get surgery for their shoulder when they walk out that day,” said psychologist Mary Horn, who is treating about seven state hospital employees who have been hurt on the job.

Mark Fridovich, the adult mental health administrator for the state health department who oversees the hospital, said when there’s an assault there’s immediate follow-up to determine what can be done to increase safety.

“Assaults do occur. We take each and every one of them very, very seriously,” Fridovich said. “The problem with assault is even a single incident of it can cause incredible harm to the worker and traumatic experience.”

Registered nurse Josh Akeo has been out of work for three months, after being kicked in the head while trying to separate two fighting patients.

“After what the doctor told me, he said the next kick in the head, the next punch in the head could end my life,” he said. “That kind of stunned me. Because in that respect, I’m afraid to go to back to work.”

Medical examiner says woman died of asphyxiation

HONOLULU (AP) — The Hawaii medical examiner’s office says a woman found dead in a commercial trash bin had been asphyxiated.

The body of 51-year-old Janine Meyer was found Oct. 29 in a large metal container near the Hawaiian Colony apartments off Ala Moana Boulevard in Waikiki.

Prosecutors filed second-degree murder charges in the case against 42-year-old Joseph Kahawai. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser (http://bit.ly/1i5U95a) reports he is scheduled for an initial appearance in the case Tuesday.

Deputy medical examiner Dr. Masahiko Kobayashi made the cause-of-death determination and declared the death a homicide.

Police have not said what led the arrest Friday of Kahawai. He was already in custody on a threat case when he was arrested.

He is jailed with bail set at $1 million.

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