Isle ‘deaths of despair’ among lowest in nation
Hawaii has among the lowest number of deaths per capita from suicides, alcohol and drug use, but is among the worst in the nation for mental health treatment, a new report shows.
The latest state health care scorecard by the Commonwealth Fund found that 64 percent of Hawaii adults between 2013 and 2015 and 23 percent of children with mental illness in 2016 did not receive treatment. Nationally, 41 percent to 66 percent of adults with mental health problems went untreated, while up to one-third of children did not get help.
“This is an indicator where no state in the country does well. We have a national need to improve mental health treatment,” said Douglas McCarthy, senior research director at the Commonwealth Fund.
For so-called deaths of despair — from suicide, alcohol and drug use — Hawaii ranked second-best in the nation at a rate of 31.2 per 100,000 residents in 2016, a slight increase from 28.4 in 2013, even while the rate of suicides nearly doubled across the country between 2005 and 2016.
For the first time in years, premature deaths before age 75 are climbing, with the state mortality rate up to 76.1 from 75.3 per 100,000 people.
“There’s upticks in mortality … or premature deaths in many states. Two-thirds of states have an uptick. In the past, rates have been declining. This is first time we’re no longer improving on this measure. It’s concerning that the improvement we have been seeing for many years has come to an end,” McCarthy said.
Infant mortality is also on the rise, increasing to a rate of
5.7 from 4.9 deaths per 1,000 births, while nationally the rate has been improving.
Hawaii health care overall ranked No. 1 among the states for access and affordability, cost and disparities. The areas of most improvement include reducing high-risk drug use among those on Medicare, the government health insurance program for seniors. The state also has the lowest Medicare spending per beneficiary.
In addition, it has the third-lowest cost for employer health insurance and ranks No. 1 for employee health insurance contributions as a share of median income.
“It’s very encouraging how well Hawaii does in the measure of access to care, which stems from a historical policy in Hawaii where they have provided health care coverage to employed individuals,” McCarthy said. “Hawaii also does very well in keeping patients out of the hospital when it isn’t necessary. Costs are very low in Hawaii as well compared to other states.”