Helping the homeless and saving money. The state is trying to do both by addressing the issue of unnecessary hospital visits.

"This is incredible. It's a game changer if we can pass this piece of legislation," explained Representative John Mizuno, House Health Committee Chairman.

"It's absolutely critical and I am speaking as a guy who takes care of patients who are mentally ill and homeless and who need us to help," said Hawaii's Lieutenant Governor, Josh Green 
    
Green is backing a bill that would cut down on the amount of homeless who unnecessarily visit Emergency Rooms at hospitals around the state, in an effort to help them get off the street and save taxpayers money. 

"People have passively lost their civil rights by being on the streets for years and years and years. Now, they have wounds, they have staph infections, they are unable to care for themselves, yet they keep going in and out of the hospital. That's why Queens loses so much money," explained Green. 

In 2016, the Queens Medical Center lost $10-million over unnecessary ER visits.  That same year, Hawaii residents were stuck paying millions of dollars more.

"Over a hundred million dollars in losses for hospitals across the state and it ends up the consumers we have to pay for that," said Mizuno. 

Hospitals currently release homeless patients once they're treated.  The bill would require the hospitals to screen patients prior to leaving.
If it determines the patient is mentally ill, unlikely to safely live in the community without supervision, or is in need of treatment to prevent relapse, the patient would be sent to a treatment center.

"The moment we can get better intervention, a real compassionate intervention and get people into act treatment and over to the hospital or one of our free clinics, the Aloha care, we will break that cycle. The costs will drop very significantly on taxpayers and also people will have a better quality of life," said Green. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai'i says it's concerned the measure "may infringe on the civil liberties of the people this measure seeks to help."
Lieutenant Governor Green says otherwise.

"We're very mindful of what some people say it's a slippery slope of losing civil rights but it's a no-brainer frankly," explained Green. 

The bill is a final committee and floor vote away from being sent to the Governor.