As an emergency room physician I see it all. However, in recent years I’ve noticed that people who come to the emergency department for care, are more desperate and closer to the edge than ever before. Though the U.S. has seen an explosion in wealth at the highest levels, most people in our middle class are having a harder and harder time affording their healthcare, rent or healthy food. I truly believe if we continue with our current priorities we will have a permanent divide between the haves and have-nots.
For example, Hawai’i has the nation’s highest per capita rate of homelessness, while at the same time we have the fourth highest rate of millionaires. Still, the state of Aloha hasn’t implemented sustainable programs to prevent this divide from tearing at the fabric of our society.
We know we are at a critical time that requires a commitment as a community to help those who are struggling. The numbers of homeless are growing more and more each day as the affordable housing market shrinks. From an economic standpoint, one way we could help resolve this pressing issue is by raising wages so that people can afford to stay in Hawaii and keep their children here. We could prioritize providing affordable healthcare insurance and access to good doctors and nurses in all of our communities. At the state legislature there are some of us that support a universal healthcare system that would cover everyone in Hawaii. We just need the bill to pass.
Community issues need community solutions. We need to make a commitment to the next generation that higher education is obtainable with the opportunity to have free community college, if they apply themselves in high school. And we should never allow large corporations to determine the environmental landscape in Hawaii, specifically, spraying large quantities of restricted use pesticides near or upwind of our educational institutions or hospitals.
Why do I feel this way? Because after decades of watching how politics as usual plays out in Hawaii, I notice things like more drug abuse and desperation in families as people sink into poverty. I see developmental disabilities in our children, likely caused by chemicals that shouldn’t be sprayed in large quantities or combinations in our environment, and I witness generational homelessness becoming accepted as a condition of an expensive paradise.
With a little political will, I truly believe that we could house everyone in the state of Hawaii, and decrease their need for expensive emergency services. I also believe that we are uniquely positioned and CAN BE the first state to achieve universal healthcare. And there’s no question that we can offer college to everyone who chooses to take that road.
Priorities like these are the way to pave a better future for our families. Priorities like these are a way we can ensure success for our keiki and keep families together. If we put these priorities in place, we will see economic growth that will make it possible to do all the things that compassionate people, liberal and conservative, rich and poor, want. With these priorities we will be able treat anyone in our community who suffers with drug addiction. We will provide everyone with a good hospital on their island. We will finally build affordable housing for the middle class and perhaps most importantly, we will secure a true safety net for those who have fallen on tough times.
This should be the Hawai`i way.