Program to offer drug offenders support

A program to help adults returning to Kaua‘i from prison for drug-related offenses, or from off-island, residential, drug-treatment programs, is scheduled to begin next month.

The Ke Ala Hoku program beginning June 1 will provide “navigators” to help criminal offenders re-integrate when they return to Kaua‘i, the head of the program said.

Dr. Rebekah Gabric Reid is in charge of the program that works in partnership with members of island churches and with administrators at Fifth Circuit Court to help get people re-oriented to being back home.

She said that a lot of people who come back have burned all their bridges and ties to their families, as well as to their communities. And that’s where the navigators come into the picture.

“We’re giving them a circle of support. We are going to assist and navigate individuals on where do they go to get bus tickets, where they can go to get clothing, where do they go to look for jobs,” said Reid.

Reid said 30 volunteers from churches all over the island have signed up to be navigators to lead groups of people who have returned home.

Since the navigators are located all over the island, those returning will be able to join a group in their hometown or in a nearby town.

The program is working in partnership with officials at Fifth Circuit Court. Reid emphasized that the court is not aligning itself with any one faith.

The navigators are from different churches, said Reid, and individuals will be matched spiritually as well as geographically. She also pointed out that court officials are not going to order people into the program.

Instead, Reid said that it is an option for individuals who want to get clean and sober, and courthouse officials will refer such individuals to Ke Ala Hoku.

Alton Amimoto, the Kaua‘i Drug Court administrator, said drug court is always ready to consider new ideas with new partnerships and agreements with other agencies and groups.

He said the faith-based group opened its doors and coordinated efforts to help people re-integrate into the community.

He also indicated that the navigators will help to fill a gap that has been open for a long time, to assist in guiding people who have lost their way in the community.

Amimoto pointed out that Ke Ala Hoku is not a “hand-out” project.

“The clients need to make individual efforts to learn and grow. We hope that this project will encourage other individuals and groups to realize that this collaborative effort will make significant progress in the battle against substance and alcohol abuse,” said Amimoto.

When individuals are referred to Ke Ala Hoku (literally “The Way of the Star”), Reid will take it from there, and match individuals with navigators.

There will be a training session for volunteer navigators from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 13 at the Kauai Beach Hotel & Resort at Nukoli‘i (off Kuhio Highway near Hanama‘ulu, formerly the Radisson Kauai Beach Resort).

Reid said that the training will include how to motivate someone, how to understand and recognize the stages of change, and how to recognize relapses.

Navigators will also find out about community resources.

“There are a lot of great programs on this island,” she said.

She said that some of the volunteer navigators used to be social workers, some have been or are nurses, and some are school teachers.

“We have a wide variety of folks right now with different backgrounds,” said Reid.

Reid has a doctorate degree in clinical psychology. Her background includes six years as a substance-abuse counselor.

Reid said she could use more volunteers to serve as navigators.

“We don’t want anyone to come back from prison or treatment and say that ‘there was nobody there for me,’ or they felt as if there was no one to turn to. You want that to be a thing of the past,” said Reid.

The program is part of the Kaua‘i Planning & Action Alliance organization. For more information on becoming a volunteer, call Reid at 634-2636, or e-mail her at whatajadna@hotmail.com

• Cynthia Kaneshiro, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or ckaneshiro@kauaipubco.com.

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