The solution to Kaua’i’s drug problem is a coordinated effort from everybody in the community.
That’s the island-wide message coming from community leaders these days.
Wednesday night two meetings were held to address the issue, one at Princeville and one at ‘Ele’ele School.
About 100 North Shore businesspeople and residents from around the island came to the North Shore Business Association’s annual meeting Thursday to hear what the Kaua’i Police Department, the island’s treatment centers and schools are doing about Kaua’i’s substance abuse problems.
Kaua’i Police Department Hanalei Lt. K.C. Lum opened the discussion by saying, “a lot of you are thinking, ‘what are the police doing about the drug problem?'”
“What causes the drug problem we have; is it you as parents, as friends, teaching your kids and neighbors?” the KPD officer said.
“Is it the police that are not doing drug enforcement? Is it the community letting it happen?” Lum asked the audience.
He said the police alone cannot solve the problem, noting that three police officers are on patrol at any given time from the ABC convenience store in Kapa’a Town to Ke’e Beach in Ha’ena. Those three officers are working as hard as they can, but they can’t be everywhere at once, he said.
It would be better for people to find out what resources are available and get help before, or instead of, getting involved with law enforcement, Lum said.
Instead of relying on the police and criminal justice system to provide rehabilitation, individuals should take on the responsibility themselves, he said.
“You’re the employers, the parents, the neighbors-what do you do? You close your eyes,” Lum said.
“Nobody wants to squeal on anyone,” a North Shore woman said in response.
Another North Shore resident said he thinks people feel afraid of going to the police, and asked Lum to look into setting up a tipline or other secure and confidential way for people to get police help.
While vigilantism is not definitely condoned by the police force, some North Shore residents have said they are fed up with the drug abuse problem and want to see action against it.
“You cannot start from the bottom and go up to the top,” a Wainiha resident said. “If you keep trying to fix all people who are sick and not taking out the dealers, then people will keep getting sick. I’m not afraid of telling names and working with the cops. I must be one of the few North Shore guys who isn’t on that stuff. I’ll enforce it as much as I can.”
After a 30-minute break and presentations by Kaua’i Mayor Bryan Baptiste, state Representative Mina Morita, Senator Gary Hooser and Bank of Hawai’i chief economist Paul Brewbaker, the second part of the drug session began. About 20 people entered a discussion on drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation.
Drug treatment community representatives included Hina Mauka’s Chief Executive Officer Andy Anderson; Hina Mauka Clinical Supervisor and certified substance abuse counselor Phil McLaughlin; Kaua’i Drug-Free Coalition chairwoman Mardi Maione; and Hina Mauka Teen C.A.R.E. counselor Malia Tokioka.
Hina Mauka, an O’ahu-based company, is funded by an Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division grant, contracted by the state Department of Health to provide care for youth, families and those with financial need.
Hina Mauka is Kaua’i’s public-funded treatment center and offers various levels of care, including family-based and youth counseling and other outpatient programs.
Residential centers that offer round-the-clock substance abuse rehabilitation for 30, 60 or 90 days, are not available on Kaua’i, and often have long waiting lists for admission of neighbor island patients, unless the patients can pay for privately-funded treatment.
The clinic’s treatment is often successful, but can cost about $5,000-$8,000.
McLaughlin said he agreed with KPD officer Lum.
“People say they don’t want to turn in dealers and users to the cops,” McLaughlin said. “Calling the cops on your kids would be (the) last choice. That’s only if you know enough to try the other options first.”
Anderson talked about the challenges and steps in opening a residential drug treatment center on Kaua’i. He said creation of a community-wide task force is needed for that to happen. About 30 North Shore people signed up to help with such a movement.
Baptiste has called for meetings in each community to begin in early March. Call the Mayor’s office at 241-6300 for meeting times and places.
Baptiste also said he will begin advertising for a drug coordinator position in Sunday’s edition of The Garden Island.
Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 252).