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Nurse Maybelline Cordero-Higa, left, held a koa bowl of salted water as the Rev. Valerie Ross, kahu and associate conference minister, blessed each patient room Friday at the new health clinic run by Kalihi-Palama Health Center at the Punawai building in Iwilei

Healthcare and government officials Friday celebrated the opening of a new medical clinic in Iwilei serving the homeless and operated by Kalihi-Palama Health Center.

The new clinic is in the city-owned Punawai building, thanks to the efforts of the nonprofit Hawaii Homeless Healthcare Hui, with support from HMSA, Island Hospice, and The Queen’s Health System.

The Kalihi-Palama Health Center began running the clinic at 431 Kuwili St. on Tuesday. The clinic offers a hygiene center on the ground floor, a medical respite program on the third floor, and 20 permanent housing studios on the fourth floor.

The private nonprofit Kalihi-Palama Health Center, which provides health and social services to more than 20,000 patients annually, was chosen because of its experience and because it is already a fixture in the community, according to officials.

“It is within our mission,” said CEO and Executive Director Emmanuel Kintu. “It is clearly in our community. and we know that we can make a difference. And we knew that we had the support of both the city and the state.”

With other key partnerships, “we knew that if we had a concerted effort, we would make a difference.”

The Hawaii Homeless Healthcare Hui, or H4, was established as a nonprofit in 2017 to improve the health and well-being of homeless and underserved populations, and to prevent hospital emergency rooms from being the delivery point of care for the homeless.

Gov. Josh Green said the idea for H4 was conceived on napkins around a kitchen table. The H4 website says the hui was founded by Green, who worked as an emergency room physician, and Dr. Scott Miscovich, who operates urgent and primary care services in Kaneohe.

Green said that “the idea is very simple. … Get people the care where they need it, where people care for them, so they can go on with their lives, so they can get better.”

Approximately 30% of emergency room patients are homeless, he said. Punawai can offer medical services along with a place to rest instead of putting people right back on the street and back to potential trauma, saving dollars and delays.

Honolulu Emergency Medical Services Director Dr. Jim Ireland said the Puna wai medical clinic complements the mission of the city’s Crisis Outreach

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