An islandwide drug prevention plan for Kaua‘i is being developed by Councilman Mel Rapozo along with heads of community programs and health agencies.
The plan is called “Communities that Care,” or CTC for short, and is aimed at helping to mobilize the community against illicit drug use and dealing, along with helping the build up resistance to drug use by local youth and other groups through a variety of methods.
The program is to provide anti-drug training for select local lawmakers and residents, plus help organize surveys and information gathering aimed at getting a handle on Kaua‘i’s drug problems and create a specialized anti-drug plan for Kaua‘i.
Judy Fraser, Good Beginnings Kaua‘i coordinator, is the traveling team leader. She said the first phase of the program includes assessment of the how to develop the program for Kaua‘i, and how to organize team leaders, which should take six to nine months. Also, Kaua‘i will develop plans for creating a branch of the CTC organization on Kaua‘i, make a needs assessment for implementing the program on Kaua‘i.
“We want to build a healthy community, start with our very youngest babies, have healthy parents to raise them with healthy skills,” Fraser said.
The coalition that won the funding for the project was required to show that Kaua‘i has a significant economic challenge, based on income, unemployment rate and livable wage. Also, the mayor’s actions helped, such as calling drugs Kaua‘i’s No. 1 problem and hiring Roy Nishida as the county’s drug “czar.” It was mandatory to have two community residents or volunteers, one team leader and at least one or two elected officials.
“The way that CTC looks at it is protective factors, which is things we know builds up a child’s resistance to risky behaviors, such as smoking, teen pregnancy, drugs, stealing. It also helps against school dropouts and violent acts,” Fraser said.
The Communities That Care traveling team is made up of Fraser and Rapozo, Alu Like community coordinator and employment facilitator Diana Puahala, and state Department of Health public health education section head Faye Newfield.
“It looks at not only the individual but at community, school, families, because we realize that just saying to people ‘don’t use drugs’ isn’t going to stop them…it’s more about looking at the root causes that lead them down that path and addresses related areas, like health and community, and environment,” said one member of the group.
Of hundreds of applicants nationwide, only 30 communities were chosen to take part in the program this year. The funding comes through what’s known as a “Greenhouse” grant, with funds coming from a federally-sponsored program called Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA). CADCA pays for training and planning costs incurred by those being trained to run and implement the program, and for the design of the program.
Though made up of people Mayor Baptiste has invited to drug summits, and some who served on the committee that chose Nishida, the coalition did not go through the county to apply for the CADCA grant. They are not affiliated with the County of Kaua‘i and no one is being paid a salary, though travel expenses are being covered.
The Greenhouse grant goal is to “grow” communities by collecting scientific data on needs and wants on Kaua‘i in the fight against drug abuse.
A five-person “traveling team” from Kaua‘i plans to travel to New Orleans and Seattle in August, and in October, for training. They’ve already made a trip in June to Miami to meet with training directors and members of other community coalitions.
Puahala, a community participant who traveled to Miami in June, said one of the most important things she learned was that the CTC plan can be customized to fit Kaua‘i with public health models and strategic consultation, training and research-based tools.
Some illicit drug use prevention programs already in operation on Kaua‘i including “Strengthening Hawai‘i Families,” a program that focuses on cultural values and founded by the Coalition for a Drug-Free Hawai‘i, and the “Smart Moves” peer education program from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
The community coalition that got the CADCA grant began to organize in March and is made up of some of the same folks invited to drug summit meetings held by Baptiste in Lihu‘e in February. The drug summits involved at least 100 people connected with related programs and agencies that deal with drug abuse prevention and recovery, plus drug law enforcement.
After people at the drug summits and in the community challenged Mayor Bryan Baptiste to help organize the “crisis on drugs,” Baptiste hired an anti-drug coordinator. As part of the process, six drug summit invitees volunteered to serve on an interview and hiring panel.
Nishida, formerly Governor Ben Cayetano’s Kaua‘i public liaison and vice president of the Kaua‘i Rural Health Association, was chosen and is tasked with raising funds and gathering data from each community on Kaua‘i.
Nishida will be helped in his effort through the new program.
Mel Orpilla, Kaua‘i’s CADCA mentor, and Sherry Wong, Communities That Care training director, are scheduled to come to Kaua‘i throughout the year. Wong was here last week to hold an information session and present a slide show on the project to the Kaua‘i County Council.
Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 245-3681 (ext. 252).