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  • Nikos Leverenz

Over 850 Served by Waikiki COVID Quarantine Facility


HHHRC Executive Director Heather Lusk gives Sen. Sharon Moriwaki, Rep. Adrian Tam, and former Deputy Directory Eddie Mersereau a tour of the Waikiki COVID facility.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, HHHRC has actively partnered with city and state government to help curb the spread of the virus and improve the health of the community. Early on, HHHRC managed the health services at the Temporary Quarantine & Isolation Center in Iwilei, offering services to people experiencing homelessness.


A central component of its current efforts is Palekana ‛Elima, a collaboration between the City & County of Honolulu and the Hawai‛i State Department of Health (DOH). The program is offered on a consensual basis for individuals who do not have a safe space to adequately isolate in the face of COVID-19 symptoms, including those who’ve been tested at a medical facility. As of September 15, the collaboration has served over 850 persons. Linkage to the facility is currently through the CARES line and will switch to Aloha United Way’s 211 line on October 1.


While not a medical facility, Palekana ‛Elima offers support services and care coordination to those in need. These services include connection to housing placement or treatment, telehealth services with primary care and behavioral health providers, and connection to available government benefits, including MedQuest and SNAP.


“We undertook the administration of Palekana ‛Elima last year to assist our city and our state in a time of crisis. Our predecessor organization Life Foundation emerged from the HIV/AIDS epidemic over 35 years ago. This project furthers every aspect of our core mission to reduce harm, promote health, create wellness, and fight stigma,” said HHHRC Executive Director Heather Lusk.


“Our experience thus far has strengthened our capacity as an organization to provide services amidst ever-changing conditions. We are fortunate to have dedicated people who are committed to meeting community needs with compassion and integrity,” she added. “Palekana ‛Elima’s case managers and support team provide a sanctuary for healing for our community during this crisis.”


Jeff Manibusan serves as HHHRC’s Team Lead at Palekana ‛Elima. “I am grateful to work in an environment where the priority is to help ensure the health and well-being of vulnerable people on a day-to-day basis. We conduct at least three wellness checks per day. We also work with them on a transitional plan that will adequately meet their housing, medical, and nutritional needs when they leave,” he said.


Manibusan previously provided community-based case management at the highest acuity levels for DOH’s Adult Mental Health Division. Born and raised in Guam with Chamorro ancestry, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps and came to Hawai῾i in 2012. Before entering the field of health services, he was a staffer in the Hawai῾i’s state legislature. This included a stretch with the office of state Senator Kai Kahele, who is now a vocal member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.


“It’s especially fulfilling to engage in this vital work during a period of profound uncertainty for our community. HHHRC works with underserved populations in non-pandemic times, and I’m happy to be part of this important collaboration,” he added.


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