Troubled teens have few resources

Experts say there’s not a lot of help for troubled teens in Hawaii.

They say Hawaii needs more people and places that troubled teens can turn to — places where they feel safe.

Foosball, kendama, and homework. These are just a few things teens are doing at the YMCA in Kalihi.

“Where we can help them get off of the streets and come into an environment, which is safe and supportive for them,” said Kyle Ishizaka, associate executive director at YMCA.

During the week, you can find up to 50 kids here after school. It’s what experts describe as a “safe place.”

“The YMCA, Susannah Wesley, the Boys and Girls Clubs,” said Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, (D) Liliha, Kalihi, Nuuanu.

Those are just some of the safe places in Hawaii, according to Sen. Chun Oakland, who chairs the Senate Committee on Human Services. She said lawmakers approved $400,000 to create an assessment center. It’s another safe place where teens who are picked up by police, as in Tuesday’s case, can go to, to get counseling.

“Allows police officers or law enforcement officers when there’s a young person that may be has done something, rather than arresting them, would bring them to the assessment center,” Sen. Chun Oakland said.

Lawmakers are also trying to get another $400,000 to fund an assessment center on the Big Island.

“There’s no resources on the Big Island or Kauai for inpatient adolescent mental health care or drug abuse, nothing,” said Sen. Josh Green, (D) Kona, Kau.

During this legislative session, Sen. Josh Green is asking for $200 million to build another state mental health facility that could include 30 beds for teens. The Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe does not accept teen patients.

“I don’t think there’s really ever enough mental health care in our state across all services, we’re trying,” Sen. Green said.

Ultimately, experts say it’s up to all of us to help. Family members, friends, and neighbors should offer a helping hand if they sense a problem with a teen.

“We just need to recognize that when we start to identify these problems early on, that we need to do something about it,” said David Hipp with the Department of Human Services.

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