HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – State Department of Health staff focused on the mental health of communities traumatized by Maui’s wildfires say residents struggling with stress, grief and financial anxiety are It warns that it may not be ready to roll out the welcome mat to visitors.
The concerns come as the state prepares to welcome visitors back to the region on Sunday.
Tia Hartsock of the Governor’s Office of Wellness and Resilience said tensions or even the possibility of altercations between residents and visitors is a “huge concern for us.”
“We just want what’s best for the community and its needs related to the healing and grieving process.”
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Hartsock said that immediately after the fire, the governor’s chief of staff asked her to coordinate Maui’s mental health response.
She has been traveling back and forth to Maui since the day after the fire.
“We are staffing up every day to meet the mental health needs of our community,” Hartsock said, adding that they also strive to understand the community’s concerns.
Additionally, DOH has a mental health team in West Maui.
Two front-line workers told HNN they think it would be helpful if the governor emphasized the importance of respecting tourists in his message about reopening tourism.
The Governor’s Office of Wellness and Resilience has helped coordinate and deploy more than 400 personnel to support 1,000 wildfire survivors with mental health and other pressing needs.
“We want to have as many conversations as necessary about what are the best solutions to address the tensions,” Hartsock said. “The most important thing for me and our office is to approach this with compassion and understanding that this is going to be for the long term.”
Hartsock said she received permission from the governor on Tuesday to begin producing flyers about how visitors can pay their respects during their visit.
This information is provided to people when checking into a hotel.
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