Settlement restores Hawaii mental health services

The Hawaii Disability Rights Center announced August 21 that it has reached a settlement with the state in a class action lawsuit filed in response to sweeping cuts to services for people with mental illnesses in 2009.

The Hawaii State Department of Health’s Adult Mental Health Division in July 2009 cut services for people with a variety of mental disabilities, including post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, borderline personaliy disorder and most other cases of depression. It also cut staffing levels at residential living facilities and cut other services necessary for people with mental illness to avoid having to be institutionalized.

In the original lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that the department also violated the state’s rule-making procedures in enacting the changes and failed to provide recipients of these services proper notice of the changes.

Under the class action, all people who were denied services between July 1, 2009 and December 16, 2010 will be reassessed for services under the eligibility criteria from 2004.

An estimated 250 individuals were affected by the changes.

By agreeing to the settlement, the state denies any liability or legal wrong doing. Individuals have the option to opt-out of the settlement if they want to pursue separate claims against the state.

The settlement must still be approve by the First Circuit Court of the State of Hawaii.

The Hawaii Disability Rights Center is part of the federally funded protection and advocacy system and a member of the National Disability Rights Network.