With the help of a $250,000 grant from the Weinberg Foundation, Mental Health Kokua (MHK) acquired state and county resources that helped expand the state’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program in central Maui and Lahaina, Maui. This program works to prevent incarceration for people with mental illness who are also without housing by connecting them with social services. MHK has partnered with the Maui County Police Department, the State Department of Health, and Ka Hale A Ke Ola—another grantee—in this pursuit.
From 2021 to 2022, the one-night count of people without housing on Maui increased 5 percent. More than half of these individuals have a serious mental health illness and often do not receive the care they need. This puts them at greater risk of being incarcerated, which can create significant barriers to later find housing and employment. An estimated 30 percent of individuals released from prison in Hawai’i are unable to obtain housing.
In the first six months of LEAD’s work in Lahaina, MHK’s team reached 17 residents at risk of incarceration and connected 13 of them (76 percent) with permanent housing through a partnership with Ka Hale A Ke Ola, an organization committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness by providing emergency housing and food. MHK is working with Maui County to fully fund the program as a strategy to further reduce the number of people without housing.