For nearly half a century, the Waiʻanae Coast Comprehensive Health Center has been a lifeline for the west side of Oʻahu. But it’s never been busier than it is now — and that growth is in direct response to needs in the community.
Waiʻanae Coast Comprehensive Health Center opened in 1972 on land acquired from the Department of Hawaiian Homelands. It had just six employees back then, it now has nearly 700. Recently CEO Richard Bettini led the organization through a $49 million expansion that remodeled three clinic buildings and helped expand its reach to some of the state’s most vulnerable people.
The center operates in what the federal government considers a medically underserved area. Half of its patients identify as Native Hawaiian, many in the community are low-income families. As Bettini explains, the facility is a health center, not technically a hospital. All of its services are provided on an outpatient basis. Some 38,000 people rely on the center, making more than 200,000 visits a year for care ranging from medical and dental to mental health or substance abuse, nutrition counseling and more.
Culture plays a big role in the facility. In its 2017 expansion, which was funded by federal, state and private local support, it established the Ha Ola Village, offering tours for staff and guests to learn traditional Hawaiian cultural practices. The center’s training helps to serve the community in culturally sensitive ways. With its facilities now at their highest level of use ever, the center’s next focus is more and better outreach, to help people avoid becoming patients in the first place or better manage conditions they may have.