HHHRC in the Time of COVID-19
As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Hawai῾i rises, it has been a time of extraordinary activity at HHHRC. We are an “essential organization” that is exempt from the larger stay-at-home order as we engage with underserved populations that require specialized care and attention. This includes people living with HIV, those who access sterile syringes, law enforcement assisted diversion (LEAD) clients, our houseless community and others for whom we are an important resource—and sometimes the only meaningful contact they will have the larger world during this time physical distancing.
That said, many of our staff are working from home or coming into the office intermittently. Like many other organizations we have been making extensive internal use of videoconferencing and other online tools. Our clinic and office’s operating hours have been reduced. We are not accepting new patients or referrals except for newly diagnosed HIV+ individuals. Our public events, with the exception of our food drops, have been cancelled through at least the end of June, although an online support group and other virtual forums are being implemented. We encourage anyone currently accessing our services to call our main office line (521-2437) to connect with our staff.
“We remain committed to providing the highest level of care to our existing clients and participants. We are also dedicated to ensuring that our staff has the organizational support and flexibility to meet their own personal needs during this pandemic,” said HHHRC Executive Director Heather Lusk. “At the same time, we are open to collaborative efforts to meet the emerging needs of underserved populations and the larger community in alignment with our mission and values .”
For more information on our response to the COVID-19 pandemic please visit our website .
Kua'ana Project Celebrates Transgender Day of Visibility Online

Supporters changed their social media profile pictures to a special TDOV frame created by HHHRC to show their support of visibility in the transgender community.
March 31 was International Transgender Day of Visibility. It is celebrated across the globe to highlight the accomplishments of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals and to raise awareness about the work that still needs to be done to secure equal rights. Hawai῾i has the highest per capita number of trans persons in the nation. State policies are among the most progressive in the nation, scoring highly (15.75/20) on Transgender Law Center’s Gender Identity Policy Tally .

Because of the need to maintain physical distancing under the current stay-at-home orders, HHHRC’s Kua῾ana Project held an online visibility event. Seven community leaders and three HHHRC staff promoted a Facebook challenge that brought together over 100 members of the trans community.

“It was refreshing to see our trans folks being proud and so empowered to share. It was great to connect with trans folks who took part in the challenge who wouldn’t normally out themselves. We were inspired by the way we uplifted each other,” said Transgender Services Coordinator Maddalynn Sesesapsara, who led HHHRC’s efforts.

Congratulations and mahalo to Cathy Kapua, HHHRC’s former Transgender Services Manager, on her new position as the Deputy Director of Trans Justice Funding Project , which supports “grassroots, trans justice groups run by and for trans people.” Mahalo again to the Gilead TRANScend Community Impact Fund for providing generous support to Kua῾ana Project’s programs and services over the next two years.
HHHRC Food Drops in Honolulu, North Shore, and Windward Provide Needed Relief
Kua'ana Coordinator Maddalynn Sesepasar and Patient Navigator Cullen Koshimizu work with a volunteer to unbox over 3,000 lbs of fresh produce for distribution.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis has heightened the grim reality of food insecurity for those with fixed budgets and limited access to essential nutritional support.
Events Manager Andrew Ogata has coordinated efforts with other HHHRC staff to address this need through collaborative actions with Hawai῾i Foodbank and other community partners. "We understand that food is a basic human necessity. During these uncertain times, many of our friends and family are left wondering where their next meal will come from. We can do our part to help with that." said Events Manager Andrew Ogata.
The first, held on March 18 at Nā Kūpuna Makamae Senior Center in Kaka῾ako (across the street from HHHRC’s office), received ten palettes of food from the Hawai῾i Foodbank. Offerings included dry goods, fresh eggs, vegetables, and fruit. We served over 250 families.
Our next food drop was held on March 27 on the North Shore in Pūpūkea in partnership with Hanapohaku LLC and Hawai῾i Foodbank, serving about 125 families. We just completed another food drop on April 3.
On April 8, there will be another food drop at Nā Kūpuna Makamae Senior Center, starting at 1230 pm.
Future North Shore food drops are scheduled on April 17 and April 24 at 12:30pm. The site location is 59-712 Kamehameha Highway , next to Foodland across Sharks Cove.

Upcoming food drops are also scheduled for April 9 and April 16 at 12:30pm for the Kaneohe community. The site location is Bay View Golf Park located at 45-285 Kaneohe Bay Drive.
Our intention is to keep working with the community to meet food insecurity to the best of our capacity during this deepening food insecurity and economic crisis. Please contact Andrew should you wish to be notified of future food drops or stay in contact with us through Facebook , Instagram , and Twitter .
Assertive Public Advocacy for Underserved Populations
Advocacy is a central value that HHHRC strives to embody in pursuit of its mission to reduce harm, promote health, create wellness, and fight stigma in Hawai῾i and the Pacific. We define advocacy as “an uncompromising dedication to eliminating the stigmas and systemic injustices impacting the communities we serve and represent.”
The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in actions by Hawai῾i government that have worsened the situation for those already consigned to the margins of civic life, including those who unsheltered and those confined in Hawai῾i’s jails and prisons. In collaboration with others, HHHRC has positioned itself as a leading community voice on behalf of those who are unable to be advocates in the public square.
On March 20, HHHRC Executive Director Heather Lusk joined Lt. Gov. Josh Green and the ACLU of Hawai῾i in calling for an end to sweeps of the houseless by the City & County of Honolulu and Honolulu Police Department. Sweeps have been suspended for the duration of the pandemic. HHHRC also joined members of Partners-in-Care Oahu in a successful public call for the city officials to re-open park restrooms so that those without shelter can access public toilet facilities and clean running water. HHHRC’s Dr. Christina Wang also lent her skills and expertise to help launch a medical triage facility on Ka῾a῾ahi Street in Iwilei for unsheltered persons who test positive for COVID-19.
HHHRC Executive Director Heather Lusk co-signed a March 26 opinion-editorial with over a dozen other groups and individuals, including retired Hawai῾i Supreme Court Justice Stephen Levinson. The primary call of the op-ed was to “emphasize the pressing need to reduce the populations in our correctional facilities, known incubators for infection.” Among the proposed reforms were the accelerated release of medically fragile prisoners and the release of low-level pretrial detainees. On March 27, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser ’s editorial board endorsed the reduction of the state’s incarcerated population : “Other states have begun releasing those who can rejoin the community safely, so that prisons don’t become a haven for the virus. Hawai῾i should follow suit, with utmost care but without delay.”
Hawai῾i’s Supreme Court appointed a Special Master on April 2 to oversee the request by the Office of the Public Defender to release up to 426. A report is due to the Supreme Court on April 9. HHHRC also participated in a social media “power hour” with the ACLU of Hawai῾i and others on April 2 using the hashtag #FreeOurOhana to support the call for needed reductions in the numbers of those incarcerated.
HHHRC joined over three dozen other parties in co-signing a March 31 letter by Common Cause Hawai῾i to Gov. David Ige, state and city lawmakers, and mayors calling for government transparency and accountability during this pandemic: “The public needs to be able to participate in government in order for democracy to continue to function. Government transparency and support of the public’s right to know are more, not less, critical during emergency situations.” Honolulu Civil Beat reported that the emergency proclamation by Gov. Ige that suspended public records and open meeting laws was “ one of the most extreme anti-transparency measures executed in the U.S.
With the state legislature suspended until further notice, many proposed reforms have been placed on hold. If you are interested in advocacy updates from us, please contact Nikos Leverenz , HHHRC’s Grants, Development & Policy Manager. 
Circle of Giving
 Your support is deeply valued and helps us to reduce harm, promote health, create wellness, and fight stigma in Hawai'i and the Pacific during this tumultuous time. With your help we will do our best to provide critical services and be a voice for underserved populations in 2020.
Hawai'i Health & Harm Reduction Center * 677 Ala Moana Blvd Suite 226, Honolulu Hawaii 96813