The Hawaii Senate Committee on Health and Human Services has passed a bill to address suicide in the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities.
According to Jurist, HB 622 requires the Prevent Suicide Hawaii Task Force (PSHTF) to further its efforts to prevent suicide in Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations.
The bill was introduced in January 2023 by Hawaii Representative, Mahina Poepoe. In a recent Op-Ed for Honolulu Civil Beat, Poepoe wrote she introduced the legislation after learning that suicide was the leading cause of death for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders aged 15-24 in 2019.
“Why is this happening? And how does this population continue to slip through the cracks?” she wrote.
HB 622 is designed to provide some answers to those questions.
Poepoe also wrote that the inclusion of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the broader category of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the 2000 census led to a lack of funding and resources for the NHPI community. This included funding and resources for mental health care.
HB 622 calls for a specific focus on the NHPI populations. According to Jurist, the bill’s asks the state’s task force to “examine, evaluate, and determine methods to improve education, awareness, support services, and outreach to best prevent suicides in Hawaii, particularly among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.”
The bill will also make the Prevent Suicide Hawaii Task Force a permanent part of the Department of Health.
“Doing nothing is not an option. Successfully identifying those at risk and offering effective treatment needs to be immediately initiated,” Poepoe wrote. “The statistics can be changed but only with committed action and dedicated resources.”
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