Thursday, April 1, 2010

DHS' Threatened Layoffs and Office Closures: Update - LCCW Students Express Their Concern

Med-QUEST workers urged Rep. Shimabukuro to support a temporary increase in the GET tax to stop devastating cuts to crucial social services. For example, one proposal seeks to replace DHS workers for the needy and disabled with websites and call centers on the mainland. Pictured L-R: Linda Ibarra, Rep. Shimabukuro, Taryn Miyasato, Jessica Kim, Huison Charles, and HGEA representative Carolee Kubo. Photo by Cougar Lind. [Click on the image to enlarge]

Please support SB 2650 (see sections 2 & 3) and HCR 219/HR 148, both of which aim to stop the planned "EPOD" reorganization and closure/mass layoff plans of DHS.

Many people are sending legislators emails, faxes, and letters urging them to temporarily increase the GET tax to end furlough fridays, stop threatened cuts to social services, and otherwise preserve the critical "safety net." HB 2877 & SB 1346 are two of the vehicles sought to achieve this goal.

UPDATE - Leeward Community College-Wai`anae's Community Health Worker class contacted Rep. Shimabukuro regarding the "EPOD" situaton, and she sent this response on 4/14/10:
Aloha Community Health Worker class: Please see my responses to your questions below. I hope this is helpful, and let me know if I can be of further assistance --

1. How are the tax dollars allocated into different communities? It's a combined effort. The Legislature votes on a Budget Bill each year (this year it's HB2200) which allocates funds to the various state Departments. The Department of Human Services (DHS) oversees the Child Protective Services (CPS) office. Once the Legislature has allocated funds, it's up to the Governor whether or not to release funds. Once the Governor has released funds, Department heads have a certain amount of discretion re: the use of the funds. In this case, DHS director Lillian Koller has decided to implement the "EPOD" reorganization, which will lay off approximately 228 DHS/CPS workers, and close 31 DHS/CPS offices, effective around 6/30/10. Director Koller has stated that she believes this EPOD reorganization is a positive change for DHS/CPS. The City has a similar process involving the City Council, Mayor, and City Departments. Further, the Federal Government has a similar process involving Congress, the President, and Federal Departments.

2. How much of those tax dollars are used to help the Waianae community residents? Your area representatives, such as myself, Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, Rep. Karen Awana, Councilman Todd Apo, Congresswoman Mazie Hirono, Senator Daniel Akaka, etc. do their best to keep tabs on this. As stated above, there are also funding decisions made at the Governor/Departmental level which elected officials do not control &/or are not privy to. As for the district I cover, Waianae/Makaha/Makua, click on this link for an update on bills as of March 2010:

3. How can we, the Community Health Worker class, prevent the closure of the Waianae CPS office? How do we participate as advocates? Support the passage of SB2650 which contains language that is trying to stop the DHS’ planned closures and layoffs. This bill is scheduled to be passed out of the Legislature on 4/14/10, and the Governor will have 10 days to consider whether or not to veto it. Then the Legislature will hopefully override the veto. We also suggest supporting HCR 219/HR 148, and the Budget, HB2200, which contains funds for DHS positions. FYI, You may request to receive email updates from the Capitol re: these particular measures. Try contacting the Public Access Room at

4. Where does the power lie to reverse CPS moving out of Waianae? DHS or an action by the Legislature and Governor

5. Can we advocate at the Legislature level? Yes, see answer to Question #3.

6. Is the Waianae Unit being cut due to budget constraints? Only the DHS can answer this, but as stated above, DHS director Koller has defended this action as a needed improvement to DHS.*

7. What other CPS offices are being closed? Accurate information can only be obtained by directly contacting the DHS.*

Another person to check with is Nora Nomura of Hawaii Government Employees Assn (HGEA), who is looking for more support in stopping this reorganization and may have the answers to some of your questions. Nora can be reached at 808-543-0013or

8. How is this closure going to affect the welfare of our children's safety?
There is no concrete way to determine this. Any answer would be speculation or a guess. Many DHS/CPS workers and community members have testified about the dire effects EPOD will have. Here is a link to some of the latest testimony received for SB2650:

9. How will monitoring of foster children and foster parents be affected? Only the DHS can answer this.* Again, several people have testified about the devastating effects of the planned "EPOD". Click on this link to see testimony for HCR 219:

10.Where are the social workers coming from? Are they familiar with our culture on the Waianae Coast? In an ideal world, perhaps it would be a desired job requirement for such workers to actually come from the Waianae coast and/or be familiar with its culture. But realistically, you would need to poll the workers themselves to find out where they are from and whether or not they are familiar with the culture of the Waianae coast. Nora Nomura/HGEA may have this info.

11.Our community is growing as Kapolei develops into a larger city. Does this mean that the Waianae Coast will be divided into smaller districts and receive more tax dollars? Why? Why not? The 2010 Census is occurring to help determine such things. Ultimately, the data from the census may affect district lines and tax dollar allocation, but at this point in time there is no answer for this. It's very critical that all Waianae residents complete their Census forms by the deadline, which I believe is 4/15/10. This data determines the amount of federal funding our Coast gets, so if people fail to complete the forms, less of us will be counted when it comes to per capita federal funding and funding those in need.

12.What is the timeline that we are looking at, for the Waianae CPS office to close? I heard that many of the DHS workers have been told that June 30, 2010 is their last day, but only the DHS can answer this.*

13.What will it take to keep the Waianae CPS office open? Severe abuse? Death of a child? Only the DHS can answer this.* I completely share this fear. We have already seen an increase in violence, which seems to have coincided with cuts in mental health services, eg, the tragic death of Waianae High teacher Asa Yamashita. Obviously if DHS closes 31 offices and lays off 228 welfare/CPS workers, our most vulnerable people will fall thru the cracks.

* These questions are similar to ones that the House and Senate Committees on Human Services are CURRENTLY trying to get answers to. DHS Director Koller has in fact stated that these layoffs and office closures will actually improve services. This is what she tells the media, and this is what she has told the Legislature. Your class may want to write a formal letter to Ms. Lillian Koller posing these questions directly to her.

As stated above, another person to check with is Nora Nomura of HGEA, who is looking for more support in stopping this reorganization and may have the answers to some of your questions. Nora can be reached at 808-543-0013 or

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