Some residents struggling with severe or persistent mental illness don't seek out help for other medical conditions. Experts say this is the reason behind Hawaii's unusually high mortality rate.
Now a pilot program is expanding to help lower those rates for residents in Waipahu.
Turning 70 years old hasn't slowed down Roenne Kam.
"I am not using a wheelchair or a cane," said the Waipahu resident.
She spends much of her time at the Waipahu Aloha Clubhouse, where she encourages others not to let mental illness slow them down.
She speaks from experience after suffering from depression for years.
"You need the help, if you don't get the help it's going to get worse. Then you are going to end up some place other than where you want to be," said Kam.
Mental illness can be more than just a disease -- for some it is a death sentence.
"People of mental illness die 25 years earlier than the general population. They are predisposed to diseases like hypertension and diabetes," said Kim Golis, with the Waipahu Aloha Clubhouse.
Now under the expanded Living Well pilot project, the Waipahu Aloha Clubhouse will offer testing for those common killers.
It will also provide tips for better eating habits and help members with other health issues.
Research shows a number of people with mental illness don't get the medical help they need.
"What we have seen is patients who go to primary care won't go topsychologist and other people who come to psychologist, don't go for outside services in the medical community," said Dr. Shirlery Tamoria, with the Kalihi-Palama Health Center.
The idea is to provide medical services at the clubhouse, where those with mental illness are already comfortable.
It is a project that's worked successfully at the Kalihi Palama health center; now it could start saving lives in Waipahu.
Both of the pilot programs are currently on Oahu, but because of the success the Department of Health may try to expand the concept statewide.