Kaua’i’s war on drugs gets support from Gov. Lingle

NUKOLI’I – The island’s war on drugs gained a powerful ally recently, as Gov. Linda Lingle told Mayor Bryan Baptiste she is willing to help fund establishment of a residential drug-treatment facility on the island.

County representatives are in negotiations now with representatives of the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation, which operates Mahelona Medical Center Hospital, for space for such a facility along Kawaihau Road in Kapa’a, Baptiste said.

Dialogue continues with the state attorney general’s office, and county representatives are also inquiring about the availability of federal funds, after learning the Big Island recently got $5 million to fight its crystal methamphetamine (“ice”) problem, Baptiste said.

While delivering remarks to around 40 members of the Kapa’a Business Association at the Radisson Kauai Beach Resort here Tuesday night, he turned his attention to what he and others feel is the island’s biggest problem – drugs.

He called the problem “an onslaught to the essence of our being. This is one of the biggest disasters that we face,” said Baptiste, who is working with his administration and others to develop a drug-abolition preparedness plan much like disaster preparedness plans for hurricanes, tsunamis and other natural and manmade disasters.

The entire island must commit to fighting the “disease that’s ravaging our community.” He pointed to a recent survey showing that 40 percent of all Kaua’i children have tried ice.

“It’s just about every place you look. We’ve got to get these people out of our town, out of our island,” he said.

“We have to put our children first, as they are our most important resource,” said the mayor, reiterating that none of the eradication plans will be successful without total community support and participation.

“It’s going to take a lot of coordination,” he said. Toward that end, state Sen. Gary Hooser (D, Kaua’i, Ni’ihau) has introduced a bill in the state Legislature to fund a drug-fight coordinator position for Kaua’i, Baptiste said.

Some private individuals and representatives of corporations have shown a willingness to donate funds to the cause, he continued.

A new drug court on the island will be authorized to hold those accused of dealing drugs, “so people don’t poison our children time and time again while they’re awaiting trial,” Baptiste said.

He talked about the “We Believe” project, where banners and bumper stickers were printed up in support of Kapa’a High School, proclaiming “We Believe in Our Warriors.” He singled out Bob Kubota of Pono Market for his work on the project.

The project wasn’t about supporting the school’s student athletes, or sports programs, or even the school itself, Baptiste commented.

“It was all about showing the children how valued and important they are,” and about the importance of having adult role models. “And the responsibility is a heavy one,” Baptiste continued.

He concluded with a challenge in the ongoing war against drugs. “I’m going to hold you all accountable. This is not just my job. It’s your job.”

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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