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Health Center Gets Crowd Support

Molokai residents plead for continued funds.

While Maui County officials sought requests from Molokai for next year’s budget, a group of Molokai residents and workers first testified for more immediately-available funds last week.

The county’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program received $2 million in federal funds, which will be available for projects across the county in 2011.

Much of the crowd pegged the Molokai Community Health Center (MCHC) as a prime candidate to receive a portion of the funds.

“[MCHC] is an integrated model of health care,” said Desiree Puhi, the center’s executive director. “We have a patient base of about 2,900 and we need the county and community to continue to support us.”

She said MCHC, which is currently in the process of moving its entire practice to the old Pau Hana Inn, not only provides an array of services, but also serves as an economic engine by opening the doors for local workers.

After CDBG testimony, the floor opened to the county’s fiscal year 2012 budget testimony. While some showed gratitude for the continued financial support, others pleaded for funding to keep vital programs afloat.

Budget Requests
Testifiers stood before councilmember Bill Kauakea Medeiros, who led the meeting sans Mayor Charmaine Tavares, asking for money to support Maui Economic Opportunity (MEO) programs as well as MCHC.

Mothers cradling their babies and toddlers approached the podium for a program called Head Start, founded by MEO, that provides health, social and educational services to preschool children and their families.

“Before the Head Start program, my son was a very shy individual,” said testifier Vonda Stone. “Now I can’t get him to shut up… He’s gained a lot of social skills.”

Several other speakers, including Stone, also spoke in favor of MEO’s transportation services.

“My mom uses the [MEO] bus to get to and from her doctor appointments and [to] buy food,” said Mercy Ritte, whose mother, Loke Gandeza, lives in Maunaloa and suffers from health problems.

“Gas prices are so high here; if it wasn’t for MEO, we’d be back to riding a horse and buggy,” added another concerned resident.

MCHC was also a topic for county funds, and some speakers tossed out words such as “phenomenal” and “movement” to describe the community health care project.

Testifier Judy Adolpho said she was worried when her husband’s health was threatened by an irregular heartbeat. He had been laid off from his job and no longer had health benefits.

“We needed help, and they took us right in,” Adolpho said. “Luckily, it wasn’t anything.”

Puhi took the microphone again, urging the county for any support whether it is a county line item, or helping release the $1 million funds approved by the state Congress – currently sitting on the desk of Gov. Linda Lingle.

“Any amount of support will help,” she said

“The difference between us and other practices is we are the community,” added Kawika Liu, the center’s medical director.  “We are owned and operated by Molokai.”

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