Investing in People


The best public investment we can make

In July, we hired Terry Lock, one of the state’s foremost experts in early childhood, to be the first Governor’s Coordinator on Early Childhood. She is working across departments to coordinate human services, health, and education programs that focus on our youngest children, prenatal to kindergarten entry age.  The Department of Health found resources to maintain Healthy Start, a home visiting program for at-risk mothers, and is leveraging private and federal funds to create opportunities for early learning.

Key Next Steps:

  • Bring together early childhood stakeholders to compete in the next phase of the Race to the Top competition, which focuses on high quality early learning and development programs for young children from low-income families
  • Utilize remaining federal stimulus to kick start our early childhood efforts
  • Develop a dedicated funding stream for early childhood development and education programs
  • Develop consistent quality measures and workforce development opportunities for early childhood programs and professionals


Building the workforce for today and tomorrow

In the first months of the Administration, we passed landmark legislation to form an appointed school board.  The Board of Education and Department of Education, in alignment with the Governor’s education coordinator Tammi Chun, are moving forward in improving public education for our children and achieving the ambitious Race to the Top goals. UH is committed to more students earning certificates and degrees to better their economic opportunities and knowledge of the world. UH has already doubled the number of native Hawaiian students in community colleges, increased community college graduation rates by 35 percent and more than tripled financial aid to native Hawaiian students. The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations finished a survey of Green Jobs in Hawaii and is executing a plan to maximize efforts to support workforce and economic development.

Key Next Steps:

  • Raise graduation standards so students in the class of 2018 and later will have tougher requirements to earn their high school diploma
  • Attack the substantial backlog of maintenance and repair of our public school facilities so that every student can work in a learning environment
  • Make our schools safe with an emphasis on addressing the issue of bullying in all forms
  • Implement unique strategies and partnerships in our Zones of School Innovation, which are aimed at swiftly improving schools in Kau, Keaau and Pahoa on Hawaii Island and in the Nanakuli and Waianae complexes on Oahu’s Leeward Coast
  • Cultivate effective teaching through mentoring programs, reduced administrative burdens and an effective teacher evaluation system
  • Continue to increase access for underrepresented students to the UH system that includes providing financial aid and support on campus
  • Broaden community outreach and dissemination of information on green jobs through enhancements to the Hawaii Green Jobs Portal to help the state meet its clean energy goals
  • Create advisory groups that include business leaders, labor representatives and educators to align training and funding to meet current and future employer needs in various economic sectors


Our most complex challenge

In the early months of the Administration, the national Medicaid funding predicament along with the state’s budget crisis forced difficult cuts to health services. The leader of Hawaii’s community health centers, Beth Giesting, stepped forward to become the first Governor’s Healthcare Transformation Coordinator with the directive to improve the healthcare system of Hawaii. Along with Senior Healthcare Advisor Dr. Thomas Tsang, who helped develop the innovations featured in the federal healthcare reform act, the two are working on an unprecedented movement designed to increase healthcare quality and access while holding the line on expenditures. Already, we are seeking contracts for the Medicaid program with provisions that will result in better health outcomes and controlled costs. The Executive Office on Aging has also completed a significant planning process that includes coordinating aging and disability systems to improve health services to the elderly.

Key Next Steps:

  • Utilize all funding, technical assistance, and system improvement opportunities afforded by the federal healthcare reform act
  • Build a healthcare exchange for Hawaii that is supported by a seamless and simplified enrollment system
  • Utilize our Medicaid program to accelerate widespread adoption of electronic medical records, medical homes, and other patient centered reforms that will improve outcomes and cut costs
  • Continue community dialogue for the transformation of the Medicaid program
  • Nurture public-private initiatives that will transform our healthcare system
  • Host a national health summit to bring together people who implemented successful healthcare policies to reclaim Hawaii’s status as “the Health State”
  • Revitalize essential public health programs under a reorganized DOH
  • Improve nutrition with a focus on reducing obesity and diabetes in Hawaii through coordinated initiatives by UH, DOE and DOH
  • Implement a comprehensive plan to address Hawaii’s aging population starting with the establishment of Aging and Disabilities Resource Centers that will serve as a single point of entry for all long-term care support and services under the leadership of the Executive Office on Aging

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A shift to prevention

Even with the immediate release of Rainy Day funds following Governor Abercrombie’s inauguration, social services and nonprofits still had to absorb significant budget cuts in the first months of the year. The Department of Human Services and Department of Health have been working collaboratively to optimize programs, but a lack of investment in prevention services over the years have left more people with more severe needs at a time when public resources are most depleted. We have started to reverse that trend with a focus on two vital areas—homelessness and prisons—in addition to rebuilding our safety net. The state’s first coordinator on homelessness, Marc Alexander, has completed a 90-Day Plan, which made significant strides in formulating a larger, long-term homelessness plan. The Department of Public Safety launched an ambitious partnership with the Justice Reinvestment Initiative that will reduce recidivism and decrease prison populations. Since taking office, PSD has brought about 300 prisoners back to Hawaii.

Key Next Steps:

  • Return people to work in DHS and restructure operations to process applications expeditiously for low-income children, adults and elderly residents eligible for food stamps and the state’s Medicaid program known as MedQuest
  • Reorganize DOH to provide core services more efficiently, including reducing redundant administrative procedures and consolidating programs
  • Create a comprehensive plan to bring prisoners on the mainland home that includes collaborating with researchers, government agencies and private organizations through Justice Reinvestment Initiative
  • Apply successful policies from the 90-Day Plan on Homelessness to create long-term statewide initiatives under the leadership of a newly created State Interagency Council on Homelessness
  • Partner with the private sector to better coordinate existing programs and bring in new revenues to rebuild the state’s safety net programs


Communities for all the people of Hawaii

We began aggressively addressing the repair backlogs in public housing projects and developed a plan to use public-private partnerships to create an array of housing for the spectrum of people in Hawaii. Kuhio Park Terrace is being modernized and the surrounding community is being revitalized. Mayor Wright Housing now has hot water, and the Weed and Seed program will be working with residents to address security and other tenant issues. The new foreclosure law (Act 48) is keeping more people in homes as we find ways to ensure that more local families can afford a place of their own.

Key Next Steps:

  • Explore an array of opportunities to meet the diverse needs of Hawaiian Home Land beneficiaries, including the possibility of offering rental units
  • Pursue grants for mixed income housing to redevelop and preserve existing public housing development, leverage redevelopment to create more affordable housing projects and develop the surrounding neighborhoods
  • Launch the Mortgage Foreclosure Dispute Resolution program to help prevent homeowners from losing their homes