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Activists hope to prevent substance abuse among youth

  • John Steinhorst / The Garden Island

    Life’s Choices Kauai Coordinator Theresa Koki, left, and Prevention Coordinator Maile Murray, look forward to collaborating with community members to help reduce substance abuse.

Coalitions can achieve real outcomes by connecting multiple sectors of the community.

Life’s Choices Kauai is seeking people to join a prevention coalition aimed at reducing and preventing youth substance abuse.

“To me it’s a gift that you know what’s going on in your community and you’re actively involved,” said Theresa Koki, Life’s Choices coordinator. “I would like to see the coalition get formed, be together, united, so we can make changes in the environment and make our island a better and safer place to live.”

The county organization recently held two public meetings at the Lihue Civic Center that attracted more than 40 people interested in building a community coalition, including outreach volunteers, youth ministries, family therapists, teachers, parents and organizations involved in reducing substance abuse.

Life’s Choices Prevention Coordinator Maile Murray presented “Coalition Building 101” training to identify steps to get started, define the problem and impacts, identify stakeholders, convene meetings, share perspectives and create a common vision.

“The coalition as a whole is going to decide what area of the island to serve, because we can’t really serve the whole island,” Murray said.

The coalition would be funded by a federal Drug-Free Communities Support Program grant of $125,000 annually for five years, in addition to state funds and monies generated by fundraising efforts.

“People can take ownership of their community and not just depend on the police to come and solve their problems,” said Koki. “They have to take ownership of their community.”

“When you say to your grandchild, ‘Here’s a playground the mayor paid for,’ versus ‘Here’s a playground that papa built for you,’ that’s taking ownership and doing the work, that’s two different things,” Koki said. “So it’s like the gift that they can continue to give to their future generations because they did it, not a paid government servant or an elected official.”

Gerald Rapozo, county Liquor Control Department director, spoke about liquor laws and enforcement authority regarding underage drinking, including recent trends such as youths purchasing realistic fake IDs that are easily available online.

“The coalitions need to get together with all of the enforcement guys,” said Rapozo. “There’s got to be constant pressure on them; and of course, you’ve got to follow up.”

Although providing alcohol to under-age drinkers is enforced with minimal fines, hosts supplying liquor are highly liable for any alcohol-related accidents that occur when guests leave, according to Rapozo.

In the end, all attendees agreed that to make communities safer, healthier and drug-free requires coordination and collaboration of law enforcement, educators, businesses, religious leaders, health providers and other community activists.

“It takes a community effort and all of its members through collaboration, cooperation and implementation to build and nourish a coalition,” said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.

Next, the County of Kauai will be presenting a series of islandwide meetings, called “Keeping your Community Safe,” that aim to inform, educate and provide safety resources to the public.

Meeting times will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at the following locations:

w Waimea Neighborhood Center, tonight

w Koloa Neighborhood Center, Feb. 15

w Kapaa Middle School, Feb. 21

w Lihue Neighborhood Center, Feb. 26

During the meetings, Life’s Choices Kauai will provide an update on the Adolescent Treatment and Healing Center, plus share even more knowledge on coalition building.

Kauai Police Department will be there to offer information on internet safety and the Neighborhood Watch Program, while the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney will share details on its Drug Nuisance Abatement Unit.

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