Drug treatment center could come in early 2007

LIHU’E — The island’s first adolescent drug-treatment center could open in Hanapepe as early as March 2007, Kaua’i County anti-drug coordinator Roy Nishida told members of the Kaua’i County Council Thursday.

The facility would be located in three renovated portable county buildings and in existing buildings at the old Kauai Humane Society compound in Hanapepe, near Kauai Veteran’s Cemetery and Salt Pond Beach Park, Nishida said during a council meeting at the historic County Building.

Kaua’i youth with drug problems are now treated in rehabilitation facilities located elsewhere in the state.

The new Kaua’i facility would change that situation, enabling Kaua’i youths to remain on the island for alcohol and drug treatment, Nishida said.

Their recovery is likely to be expedited and enhanced partly because family members and friends will be able to visit them at the Hanapepe facility, Nishida said.

Professionals at the facility would treat youths from any part of the state, but would give priority to Kaua’i youths, he added.

The facility is designed to serve a maximum of eight boys and eight girls, officials said.

Ron Agor, a Kaua’i architect who has offered his services at no charge to county officials to design the facility, and Nishida noted:

  • Members of the Kaua’i County Planning Commission have approved permits for the project;
  • Construction plans will be finished by the end of the year;
  • County officials hope to secure other county permits by Jan. 31, to move three portable county buildings to the Hanapepe site;
  • A contractor could be selected for the project by March, to start work in April;
  • Work could be completed, and the facility could open for business, by March 2007.

The facility will be different from any other adolescent treatment project in the state in that Kaua’i County leaders will be the first among the counties to step forward and offer buildings for use by a vendor, Nishida said.

“This is an unusual case, because all the operators are private, nonprofit (organizations), and went out for the money and built it (a facility) by themselves,” Nishida said.

Because county leaders will lease the use of the building to a vendor, County Councilwoman JoAnn A. Yukimura said she wants more information on the “arrangement between the vendor and the county.”

“We are stepping right in the middle of social services, normally not thought to be a county jurisdiction or expertise,” she observed. “That is why I am concerned about what the relationship will be, and what the oversight will be.”

Nishida said the conditions for operations will be spelled out in the lease agreement, which could run five years.

And if the vendor or service provider operates the facility under such conditions, the vendor, by right, should give a break on the charges assessed its patients, Councilman Mel Rapozo said.

“I would hope that if we are providing a free facility, and a similar program on O’ahu has a facility charge, let’s say $25,000 or $50,000 a year, I would think the fee for Kaua’i (patients) would be less, because they (a Kaua’i vendor) would have that much less overhead.”

He added that, if the vendor is to have free use of the buildings, “there should be a clause that (says), ‘hey, because you are getting a free use, that needs to translate to a benefit to Kaua’i somehow.”

Nishida said he would like to see that happen as well, but noted, “I don’t know if that is possible to do that. I got to talk to finance (county Department of Finance officials) and see how we can put that clause in the lease or in the RFP (request for proposals) when they answer back.”

Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho also voiced similar concerns as those raised by Rapozo, indicating that it would be prudent for county leaders to get something out of such a lease agreement to benefit Kaua’i youths undergoing treatment at the facility.

Councilman Jay Furfaro said that, in reaching a lease agreement with a vendor, “certain things will be considered in the specifications which could determine the length of the lease.

“I see in the plans certain pieces in the food-and-beverage building for meals that don’t include the final details to a bathroom (for instance),” he said. “That it is in fact, a future item (an investment).”

Yukimura also noted that, because county leaders own the building, they could be liable in case of an accident.

“It is possible that if there are any allegations of mismanagement that result in harm to a child or something like that, the county, as the owner of the facility, could be liable or vulnerable to lawsuits, and so forth,” Yukimura said.

Nishida said representatives with Hina Mauka, who provide outreach drug treatment from their offices in Lihu’e and have been working with him and others in developing plans for the facility, recommended that a selected vendor should carry multimillion-dollar insurance policies, and should indemnify the county.

Yukimura also said she was concerned county leaders are moving ahead with renovation work before a vendor or service provider has been selected.

“To me, this is critical in terms of facilities design and everything,” Yukimura said.

A facility built for the particular needs of a vendor will provide the best services possible to youths who are undergoing treatment, Yukimura indicated.

Agor said he has met with potential bidders for the project, Maui Youth and Family Services and the O’ahu-based Bobby Benson Center, on the layout of the facility, and has designed one that could “generically” fit the needs of any service provider.

Council Chairman Kaipo Asing said he would feel more comfortable if the specifications of the building were nailed down, and asked Agor to have them documented.

“Mr. chairman, I will start that procedure next week,” Agor said.

The vendor will be selected through the county’s request for proposals process (RFP), based primarily on expertise and experience, not how low the bid proposal will be, Nishida said.

The project is being developed with $1.1 million in federal, state and county dollars, Nishida said.

Hawai’i’s U.S. Sens. Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel K. Akaka, and U.S Reps. Ed Case, D-Neighbor Islands-rural O’ahu and U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-urban O’ahu, through their lobbying efforts, secured $390,000 to furnish the new facility.

Those funds were provided after council Vice Chair James Tokioka and Councilman Daryl Kaneshiro attended a National Association of Counties meeting in Washington D.C. in March of this year, Nishida said.

While there, members of Hawai’i’s congressional delegation asked the Kaua’i County legislators how they could help Kaua’i, Nishida said.

Tokioka and Kaneshiro talked about the great need for an adolescent drug-treatment facility for Kaua’i, and the federal legislators responded with matching funds, Nishida said.

State Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua’i-Ni’ihau, and state Reps. Ezra Kanoho, D-Lihu’e-Koloa, Bertha Kawakami, D-West Kaua’i-Ni’ihau, and Hermina Morita, D-Kapa’a-Hanalei, helped secure $560,000, and members of the Kaua’i County Council, supported by Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste, appropriated another $365,000 or so for the Hanapepe project, Nishida said.

Nishida credited Baptiste for having been a steadfast supporter of efforts to curb drug use on the island, helping to develop an anti-drug master plan, and backing the development of the adolescent drug-treatment facility.

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