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Mental health is important, especially in time of pandemic

This week, the Adolescent Treatment and Healing Center on Kaua‘i received $1.3 million from combined efforts of local community members and lawmakers, and we’re strongly in support of getting this center up and running for its original purpose as soon as possible.

The building that was constructed for the Adolescent Treatment Center was completed in 2019 after decades of planning for some kind of youth center for mental-health services, as well as drug and alcohol rehabilitation. It is currently being used as a COVID-19 quarantine and isolation site.

As our reporter Sabrina Bodon explained in our Sunday, April 25 edition of The Garden Island, the $1.3 million is included in the state’s fiscal-year 2022 budget. The hope is to have the doors of that center open during that fiscal year. That allows plenty of time to find somewhere else to designate as a COVID quarantine center, so that Kaua‘i still has enough space should an outbreak occur on the island.

The reality is, we need that treatment center open sooner rather than later.

As Senate President Ron Kouchi pointed out: “Kaua‘i has the highest incidence of teenage suicide in the state, and these trends have increased significantly over the course of the pandemic.”

We need that adolescent treatment center to help provide abundant access to mental health help for young people and adults on Kaua‘i, especially with recent climbing COVID numbers on the island.

Thursday, the state Department of Health Kaua‘i District Health Office reported a total of 43 active cases of COVID-19 on the island. DOH has 107 people in quarantine.

On Wednesday night, Kaua‘i had 47 active cases on the island, more than we have ever had — 45 of those are Kaua‘’i residents, and only two are visitors.

Under Kaua‘i’s tiered system for reopening, a weekly average new case count of two cases per day would trigger a move to Tier 3, which would once again limit group gatherings to 10 people or less and prohibit indoor and outdoor sports.

Certainly the uptick in cases has residents concerned. We’ve heard the questions: “Am I going to have to shut my business down again?” and “What about Mother’s Day?” and “Sports?’

In his social-media broadcast “COVID-19 Briefing” Mayor Derek Kawakami said Thursday that moving into Tier 3 “is not imminent,” but that Kaua‘i is “certainly headed in that direction.”

Instead of shifting the county back into more restrictions, Kawakami’s administration is repeating the same advice they’ve been offering — get vaccinated, wear your mask, avoid gatherings and stay home if you’re sick. They’re monitoring the situation and waiting for direction from the state on how to respond to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s newest recommendations.

Kaua‘i has felt like it’s on the cusp of returning to somewhat of a normal. Visitors have returned and are again walking the streets, visiting shops, buying snacks and going on tours. The CDC just updated their recommendations to include caveats for vaccinated people for activities like mask-wearing.

And now we’re seeing the highest number of COVID-19 cases we’ve seen yet on Kaua‘i.

It’s enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed and concerned about the future. It makes sense that level of stress could impact mental health for people at any age. But it appears to be having a specific impact on children.

The CDC reports that, beginning in April 2020, the proportion of children’s mental-health-related emergency-department (ED) visits among all pediatric ED visits increased and remained elevated through October. Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental-health-related visits for children aged 5 to 11 and 12 to 17 years increased approximately 24% and 31%, respectively.

That report, and others like it, show that the pandemic has had a negative impact on children’s mental health. And those most impacted by the pandemic are between ages of 12 and 17.

That’s right in the middle of the age group that the Adolescent Treatment and Healing Center will be serving. That’s why we say we need to get this center up and running as soon as possible.

We applaud Kouchi, the Kaua‘i County Council and all the others who stepped up to make the Adolescent Treatment and Healing Center a priority for FY 2022.

It will add to a growing array of mental-health and treatment services that are already on the island, including the state DOH’s Kaua‘i Community Mental Health Center, Kaua‘i Family Guidance Center, Malama Pono and Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i.

And, if you don’t want to walk into an office and talk with someone physically, there are plenty of online and remote therapists who can help sort through the stress of the pandemic, with its switched-up social situations, economic uncertainty and other challenges. You can video-chat with them. Some companies even let you text your therapist when you’re wanting to check in.

w Editor’s note: COVID-19 reporting methods differ between state and county entities. A Kaua‘i resource directory is available on the county’s Life’s Choice’s Kaua‘i website,
Source: The Garden Island

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