Implementation of Hawaii’s “Forced Treatment” Law

Hawaii has the highest per capital rate of homelessness in the nation. About a third of homeless in Hawaii suffer from mental illness. This 2019 article discusses the strengthening of Hawaii’s Assisted Community Treatment Law, first enacted in 2013, whose goal was to compel severely mentally ill to receive psychiatric treatment when they are a danger to themselves. The previous law was vague in its language about what constituted a person’s being a danger to themselves. Many civil rights advocates in the state argued that the law applied only to persons threatening to kill themselves or do bodily harm to themselves. Consequently, only ten people were ever compelled to receive treatment under this law. The updated law makes the language more clear, stating that a demonstrated inability for a person to “provide themselves adequate food, shelter, or medical care–including medical care,” constitutes a person’s being a danger to themselves.