The Mokihana Project is the result of an effective collaboration between the Hawaii Deptartment of Health and Hawaii Deptartment of Education working to serve the mental health needs of students in the public schools K-12. The Mokihana Project currently has approximately 500 clients.
As a collaboration of two different state agencies working within strict federal and state mandates, the program's staff faces difficult challenges while meeting the needs of students, parents, teachers and the staff themselves. Not easy given all the challenges involved, including 15 different work sites, two sets of state agency rules, and compliance with the IDE Act, Section 504 regulations, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Mokihana project has become a model for others to follow, in particular because of its team approach to problem solving, effective communication and work planning. Staff are involved at every step of planning and program development. When mandates or changes are handed down by any governmental agency, supervisors bring the issues to all the staff at their monthly meeting for discussion on how to best implement the changes given other priorities, resources and concerns that must be addressed.
At each staff meeting, training sessions on a variety of issues are conducted by either outside experts, or staff members who have recently undergone training in a relevant area. for example, the staff undertook a culturally-based program in Hakalau on cognitive awareness useful in working with difficult to reach teens.
Employees receive partial reimbursement for conference fees and travel to individual professional development. Several times each year staff take time off for team building days where staff take part in group activities and informal gatherings designed to facilitate social connections with each other. Following the conclusion of the school year, a large celebration is held to commemorate the closing of the year.
Staff remain focused on the mission and not on internal politics. Open communication is the foundation upon which the program is built. Staff at Mokihana are intimately involved with the community in a variety of ways including professionally and as individuals so that they might inform the public about the program. Many staff members have volunteered their time to discuss services available to students at meetings with parents, mental health organizations, and outreach programs including Family Guidance Center, Child Justice Center and others. Staff members are active in Kiwanis, Rotary and other civic groups and have been able to solicit donations from private organizations when necessary for equipment that the state is unable to purchase, such as boogie boards and fruit juice.