State briefs for April 23

Man pleads not guilty in death of lover found in Hawaii tub

HONOLULU (AP) — A 23-year-old man man accused of killing his 73-year-old lover and pouring cement over his body in a bathtub in one of Hawaii’s most exclusive gated communities has pleaded not guilty to murder.


A public defender for Juan Baron entered the plea during an arraignment Thursday, according to court records.

Gary Ruby’s decomposing body was excavated by authorities last month from a standalone soaking tub in Ruby’s Hawaii Loa Ridge home. Police said Baron covered the cement with coffee grounds to mask the smell.

Police said Baron planned to fraudulently take ownership of Ruby’s car and home.

U.S. Marshals and Los Angeles police later arrested Baron after finding him in a crawl space at the back of a Mexico-bound bus in Anaheim, California. Baron was extradited to Honolulu.

Baron is being held without bail. His attorney requested a Spanish interpreter for a bail hearing scheduled for Monday, according to court records.

Oahu nursing center to close, citing financial challenges

WAHIAWA, Oahu (AP) — The only skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility in central Oahu expects to close this summer.

Wahiawa General Hospital said it plans to close its long-term nursing center on July 22, citing insufficient insurance reimbursements and continued financial challenges, Hawaii News Now reported. It’s also been struggling to hire and retain staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wahiawa General, a small independent hospital, had received millions in taxpayers dollars to keep it afloat in the past, but it is still losing over a million dollars a year.

It also doesn’t have the money to improve existing facilities, such as the long-term nursing center, which was built in 1966.

Hospital administrators said many of the patients in Wahiawa are covered by the Supplemental Security Income program or Medicaid, which have low reimbursement rates.

The long-term care center has 115 beds, according to its website. It currently has 60 patients.

John McDermott, the state’s long-term care ombudsman, said Hawaii can’t afford to lose nursing homes, especially when the state’s senior population is increasing so rapidly. The nearest alternatives for skilled nursing and rehabilitation are in Kaneohe and Pearl City.

Wahiawa General is giving 90 days notice and helping to relocate patients.

$2.2M grant to train Hawaii substance abuse counselors

HONOLULU (AP) — The University of Hawaii said Thursday it’s received a $2.2 million grant to train 88 students to become substance abuse counselors.

The grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration will provide students with scholarships to attend a program at Leeward Community College. The students will also receive stipends while completing 400 hours of field work.

Upon finishing, students will receive a Certificate of Competence in Substance Use Disorders Counseling.

Students who have obtained their certificate will have an opportunity to work one-year full-time or two-years part-time as apprentices to boost their skills with on-the-job training. The Hawaii Behavioral Health Training Institute program will offer synchronous online classes so neighbor island students can enroll.

The program aims to support training opportunities in rural areas.

“There is a dearth of substance use disorder counselors who come from vulnerable, marginalized communities, and these communities unfortunately often suffer the most substance use-related problems,” said Gwen Williams, professor and program coordinator.

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