HONOLULU – A federal judge has extended by 18 months the state’s deadline to provide adequate mental health services for children with special needs.
Aside from Kaua’i, the state’s school districts failed to prove they made improvements in services by the June 30 deadline. Now the feds are pushing for systemwide compliance by Dec. 31, 2001.
In 1994, parents filed a class-action lawsuit against the state, charging that it had fallen far below federal standards, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The result was the Felix Consent Decree, a federal court mandate to create a child-focused system of care.
In April 1999, federally appointed monitor Ivor Groves declared that the Kaua’i school district had created such a system, mainly thanks to the Mokihana Project, which put the mental health services directly in the schools.
Through the court order issued last week, Groves can initiate actions to address any benchmarks that are not completed on schedule.
He will also send a team of technical assistance experts to Molokai, where the delivery of services has been particularly challenging.
For the Kaua’i district, however, the extension doesn’t mean that much will change, said superintendent Daniel Hamada.
“We are already in compliance,” he said, “so our challenge is to maintain the quality of services.” Hamada did mention that an on-line database for Felix-class children’s reports would be implemented this school year at the direction of the federal courts.
“In the past, when someone would write a report, we’d have to send papers to all the different players,” said Val Tsuchiya, educational specialist for the district. “What happens now is everyone who is a player is pre-identified for every student. When a report is written and inputted, it’s available to all the people who are authorized access to it.” Called the Integrated Special Education Database (ISPED), the system will make the network of services more seamless, officials said.
Another change is that special school coordinators will be going on a year-round schedule, making the services accessible to special needs kids for 12 months a year, instead of nine.
“In essence, what’s going to be happening is for special services side, school doesn’t close, barring Christmas,” Hamada said.