"The cost to the taxpayers right now are there are 144 beds for the most acute patients that are, you know, potentially out on the street in our community, or who are wasting away in jails when they really should be getting treatment," he said.
The Department of Health oversees the hospital that's been criticized for security and safety issues over the years. DOH officials told lawmakers today they've been dealing with preventing a COVID outbreak, staff shortages and having to take care of daily operations.
"We need to take responsibility for that over at DOH as I indicated to you before there were a number of things that we should have started while the building was still being built -- like an operating plan, start drafting out some policies and procedures and we didn't," said Marian Tsuji, deputy director for behavioral health at the DOH.
The delays have frustrated lawmakers scrambling to find solutions to the growing number of homeless people and help for those people suffering from mental illness.
"This facility is important to make sure that the dangerous ones are in a secured facility so they won't harm the staff, they won't harm other people or themselves," Keohokalole said. "But this building is going to open up space and capacity for us to get the homeless off the street. And that's why we want them to hurry up and open this place up and do it the right way."
The 144-bed facility will be opening in phases starting with 48 patients moving into the third floor in mid-April, two weeks later another 48 will move into the second floor and two weeks after that on the first floor.
The Hawai'i State Hospital is also starting other renovations in May to improve safety and security throughout the campus. Those projects are expected to be finished in 2023.
Kristen joined KITV4 in March 2021 after working for the past two decades as a newspaper reporter. Kristen's goal is to produce meaningful journalism that educates, enlightens and inspires to affect positive change in society.