Addicts finding help at KCCC

Treating people for drug addiction is a demanding job at the Kauai Community Correctional Facility, and treating inmates with respect and finding out their needs is the first step to recovery, according to a woman doing rehabilitation work in the jail.

Tali McCall was hired by the Salvation Army to facilitate “Freedom to Change” at KCCC, a Level II substance abuse rehabilitation program, and one that provides inmates the highest level of treatment available on-island.

Inpatient treatment for substance abuse treatment is not available on the island, though it is on Oahu.

McCall says inpatient treatment is needed to make sure substance abusers can recover from addiction and have a support system of family, friends and a safe place to come back to once inpatient treatment is finished.

“It’s a setup for failure if they don’t have a support system when they come back from off-island treatment,” McCall said. “Most of these individuals are familiar with failure already and providing community support promotes recovery. If we had a treatment center, the transition from treatment to community could be integrated much easier.”

“It is important to understand The Freedom’ program does not take the place of residential or intensive outpatient treatment,” McCall said.

Freedom to Change targets sentenced felons who have been identified as needing an appropriate level of substance abuse and inmates nearing the end of their term of incarceration. The progam includes about 42 participants in KCCC. McCall and KCCC staff determine who is eligible to participate. It offers in-facility counseling, support groups and transitional services after inmates are released.

The purpose of Freedom to Change, according to McCall, is to reduce the high percentage of released prisoners who wind up back in jail; to change their negative habits into healthy lifestyles; provide a bridge for prisoners as they attempt to successfully return back to their community and society; provide a straightforward way for prisoners to receive help for substance abuse problems; and teach the connection of substance abuse to problems with the law.

The program also includes a guide for prisoners on how to continue receiving substance abuse rehabilitation help once they are released from KCCC, and serves released inmates who need to complete Level II treatment.

McCall said she feels “the key to providing continuity in services is community collaboration.” To her, this means “Community agencies working together to create coordinated and effective services. Working with the family in an effort to enhance positive experience and healthy family functioning.”

McCall is a substance abuse counselor certified by the state Department of Health, a licensed DSW social worker and has been working with the Department of Public Safety for more than 15 years.

Other KCCC Programs:

A select group of prisoners at KCCC take part in warden Neal Wagatsuma’s award-winning Lifetime Stand program.

Wagatsuma said the program he designed teaches inmates military-style marching formations.

“When it comes to programming (for) inmates, the focus is on Lifetime Stand,” he said. “That is the focus because it’s more about walking, not just talking. If you look at these inmates’ drug problems, it’s more of a symptom, a lifestyle issue. A lot of it is, it’s hard to counteract an entire lifetime of criminal activity.”

Wagatsuma estimated that about 80 percent of inmates have problems with substance abuse and many are emotionally unstable. “I think a lot of them, if you look at their substance abuse problems, they use that because they have major relationship issues, a lot of these people are real needy,” he said.

He acknowledged that drug treatment and other in-jail services don’t solve the drug problem: “You cannot only deal with one area, you have to deal with the whole picture, otherwise we’re fooling ourselves into thinking these guys have a chance at making it.”

Other treatment and prevention services provided in KCCC include Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, GED completion and groups run by volunteers from churches and other “faith-based organizations.”

The state Department of Public Safety is also about to award several contracts statewide for services, according to Miles Murakami, acting correction services administrator with the state Department of Public Safety. A recently-approved legislative bill allows funding for local treatment of substance abuse, rather than paying for the use of 50 beds per year at drug treatment centers in California and other western states. People who want treatment there are responsible for their own transportation costs.

Kauai will receive about $30,000 of the transferred funding, Murakami said. Statewide about $900,000 will be distributed to the four counties.

On Kauai, since there is no inpatient treatment yet available, the funds will be used for outpatient services.

During the cycle of community drug summit meetings held during May, Kauai mayor Bryan Baptiste introduced the Punana program targeted to released inmates. Punana would allow a “nest” or safe place, for people to go once they are clean and sober. These “halfway houses” would be surrounded with agricultural land so inmates could take the skills they learned in KCCC’s gardening program and sell their crops.

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


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