Drug summit offers county snapshot
by Blake Jones – The Garden Island
The county Anti-Drug Office released its five-year drug response plan yesterday, pledging continued anti-drug efforts across Kaua‘i and stressing the need for funding.
Government, private sector and nonprofit leaders from across the state gathered at the Hilton Kauai Beach Resort for an update on anti-drug efforts and a preview of what’s planned for the coming years at the county’s 2008 Drug Summit, now in its fourth year.
The annual summit brings everyone to the table, said County Anti-Drug Coordinator Theresa Koki, to share success stories and accomplishments of the past year, as well as to galvanize support for the year to come.
Koki said one of the plan’s major goals is to see a residential facility break ground by 2010 — an initiative first proposed by the late Mayor Bryan Baptiste.
In 2006 the county started building such a facility in Hanapepe; however, its proximity to the environmentally sensitive Salt Pond Beach Park elicited opposition from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, among other groups. Construction was halted, and a new site has yet to be identified.
“The will is there, it’s just a matter of where to put (the facility),” said Diane Zachary, president and chief executive of Kaua‘i Planning & Action Alliance, the county’s partner in creating the drug plan.
Each year, 1,102 Kaua‘i adults and 508 adolescents receive some level of drug abuse treatment; however, the report acknowledges gaps in the continuum of care. Proponents of a local facility say its presence will alleviate the waiting list for off-island residential programs, which is currently between 20 to 30 people.
According to Koki, a renewed push for enhanced treatment options on-island will require “buy-in from everyone.”
Collaboration is nothing new for the Anti-Drug Office, as its efforts span drug prevention, enforcement, treatment and community integration. The 2008-2013 plan continues the four-prong approach, aiming to beef up prevention activities on-island, with a focus on after-school, summer and weekend activities for youth; establish on-island therapeutic living facilities; and support law enforcement and intervention programs as well as collaboration among county, state and federal agencies.
Zachary said creating strong families is another key component of the plan. The Parent Project program, which offers parents no-nonsense solutions to problems, was attended by 100 participants in its first run this year. But Zachary hopes its role can expand to help hundreds of parents.
Finding additional funding to support anti-drug efforts is also a high priority. There are currently no state or federal grants available for the county’s substance abuse programs, states the report. Many programs rely on private foundations, corporate support and limited state grants-in-aid to get by.
“We want everyone to realize funding is a big issue,” Koki said.
Sustainable funding ideas, such as earmarking a percentage of taxes of alcohol products or confiscated property sales, will be explored, according to Zachary.
As for the drug problem itself, substantial strides have been made in terms of crystal methamphetamine, or ice, use.
Hawai‘i U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo said that seven years ago Hawai‘i was labeled the “ice capital of the U.S.,” with 30,000 users among the state’s 1.2 million population.
A targeted enforcement effort led to major ice and marijuana busts in the last year, including the first wire tap on Kaua‘i. But that doesn’t mean it’s time for the state to rest on its laurels, according to Kubo.
“Now’s not the time to relax,” he said.
Koki agreed, saying people mistakenly think the ice problem went away entirely because of successful efforts to reduce it. The Baby SAFE program saw five “ice babies” born to drug-addicted mothers in one month this year. And the county currently reports that 80 to 90 percent of all crimes committed are drug-related.
Meanwhile, law enforcement is seeing a rise in cocaine arrests and seizures.
The Hawai‘i U.S. Attorney’s Office continues to target violent repeat offenders, working on the premise that 20 percent of criminals commit 80 percent of the crimes. But Kubo stressed that community support is critical, as is partnership with service organizations.
“Law enforcement is not the answer to every problem,” Kubo said, adding that treatment and prevention are key to a holistic approach to the drug problem.
• Blake Jones, business writer/assistant editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or email@example.com