TV’s “Coach” gives pep talk at drug summit

We may all know Craig T. Nelson as Hayden Fox from the 1980s sitcom “Coach” or as Chief of Police Jack Mannion on the CBS show “The District.” The television and film star was invited to the county’s fourth community drug summit Thursday night to speak about “choices.”

Malia Rosa-Tokioka, the popular local singer and teen substance abuse counselor for a drug treatment center called Hina Mauka, was also invited to speak.

What the two have in common is recovery from drug addiction. The lesson was: If they can fall prey to addiction, so can you, your mom or your dad, or your kids, teachers, neighbors and friends. Recovery is possible with patience, support and love. About 150 people showed up at the meeting, held at Kapaa Elementary School’s cafetorium.

Nelson said that through belief in a higher power, he has been sober for 19 years, about the same length of time he’s been a visitor of Kauai.

Rosa-Tokioka quoted Proverbs 14:12: “Before every person there lies a wide and pleasant road. It seems and feels right; but this road ends in death.”

“Many of our young people today are following a road that some of us have already been on and some of us may be on right now Not knowing that once on this road, it’s almost impossible to turn back,” she added.

She hit bottom, she said, when she was indicted for drug possession and faced a 10-year term of imprisonment. Her son, then about 2, would also have been taken from her. Thanks to God and “tough love” from her family, she said she was able to recover and the process gave her back her sanity, her health, her career and a love for life.

Rosa-Tokioka has been drug-free for 15 years and alcohol-free since 1995. At the end of her talk, she sang the song “We Can Make a Difference,” which talks about believing in the power of good to change people’s lives.

“I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict,” said Nelson, who’s been sober for 19 years.

His interest in helping Kauaians fight the battle against ice led him to attend two of the mayor’s summit meetings early this year that included professionals in drug treatment, prevention and counseling. He called ice an “insidious drug (one) that’s accelerated beyond anyone’s imaginations.”

He commented on how Kauai seems to have a lot of despair and not much hope. But he said he has faith that people here can cultivate the feeling of ohana and closeness.

“My experience is that all of us have to come to grips that we’re on an incredible spiritual journey and that god can and will deal with this,” Nelson continued.

He credited his wife, Doria, for going to an Al-Anon meeting about 21 years ago and decided she didn’t want to “play the game” with him any longer. If she hadn’t taken the step, he said he believes he’d probably already be dead.

“When I asked Craig to speak, I didn’t know he had a problem. I asked him because when I saw him on TV, I saw a man who could motivate people,” Baptiste said.

“What I learned was that this is not discriminatory. It doesn’t come from the so-called bad neighborhoods, the low-income families ” Baptiste added.

About 150 people attended the meeting, organized jointly between the County of Kauai and Kawaihau Community Leadership Coalition. Kawaihau district encompasses areas from Wailua River to Kealia River.

Like the other drug summits, the mass was divided into smaller groups. When meeting moderators Mary Jo Sweeney and Jan Carmichael directed the mayor to “count off” the seven groups, a worried mumbling sound echoed in the cafetorium.

Some married couples refused to take different numbers and be split apart for 30 minutes. The dozen or so high school students in attendance were separated from their parents. Four inmates at Kauai Community Correctional Center were in attendance and participated in the group sessions.

“This was a more diverse group of people, so I would say it’s the most successful meeting we had so far,” said Roy T. Nishida, the county’s drug programs coordinator.

“We need more places for kids to go, because they have nothing to do on the weekends,” said volleyball player and new Kapaa High graduate, 18-year-old Heather Borges. Another senior, Ulu Torio, said that more in-your-face, “scared straight” programs and assemblies would work on students.

Kapaa Middle School 7th grader and peer educator Kalei Gonzales agreed: More facilities are needed to keep kids busy, she said.

“Getting a facility for kids and adults so the adults can have a place to play sports, and the kids can follow their parents’ example, and keep them off the street,” was Wailua Homesteads resident Gary Maguire’s top priority.

Mardi Maione, a Hina Mauka substance abuse counselor and chairperson of the Kauai Drug Free Coalition, said that consistent community education and meetings like the county’s drug summits are important.

Shane Segreti, in 10th grade at Kamehameha School, agreed that when he comes home for summer or winter vacation, a lot of his friends here are getting into trouble.

“At Kamehameha School, a lot of people don’t want to pass up the education, because what’s all the sense to get kicked out?” he said. His friend, Lance Kuwamura, a 10th grader from Kapaa, said that his school is “pretty much cruise.”

The first round of drug summits ended Saturday, May 31 with a meeting for the West Side at Waimea Plantation Cottages, from 8n11 a.m. Lieutenant Governor James “Duke” Aiona and Dr. Al Bronstein, medical director of Hawaii’s Regional Poison Control Center were the scheduled speakers.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

Kawaihau’s drug summit key issues and needs:

  • Presence of federal law enforcement agents to assist in drug operations
  • Classes about conflict resolution and anger management
  • Facilities where kids and adults could participate in sports, workshops and other activities togethernchildren could learn from their parents’ examples
  • Lighting at parks to deter people from selling and doing drugs
  • Strengthening communities with neighborhood pot-lucks
  • Stricter consequences for smoking, drug and alcohol use in school, besides in-school detention
  • More safe, drug-free activities for teen-agers, especially on weekends, and more places to hold these activities
  • A hotline for teens and parents
  • Listen to youth to find out what they need and want
  • Residential drug treatment facilitynwhen people are sentenced and brought to jail, they aren’t getting help, they’re getting “warehoused”
  • Responsibility and accountability of parents
  • Youth who have too much time on their hands
  • Too much money is being spent on youth after they enter the criminal justice system, not before
  • Community involvement in churches and faith-based groups
  • Require inmates to be educated about drug addiction
  • Forming community watchdog groups

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