September is National Recovery Month. This will be its 25th year of celebrating those who are on the road to recovery or have crossed the finish line. It is a time when our country can educate ourselves and understand the importance of spreading the positive message that “behavioral health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover.”
The 2015 Recovery Month theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Visible, Vocal, and Valuable!” highlights the value of peer support by educating, mentoring, and helping others. It invites individuals in recovery and their support systems to be change agents in communities, and in civic and advocacy engagements.
Life’s Choices Kauai is commemorating Recovery Month by hosting its 9th annual Health and Wellness Fair. The fair will be held at the Convention Hall on Sept. 18 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Like anywhere else, Kauai faces the issue of mental illness and/or substance abuse amongst adolescents and adults. As a community, we should be more focused on the recovery of these individuals, most importantly, our youth.
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Recovery is difficult to achieve on Kauai given the fact that our youth must travel to Oahu or other neighbor islands in order to receive the treatment they need to recover, not allowing them to heal at home with their family.
According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, among people aged 12 or older, 20.2 million people needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem in the past year, but did not receive treatment at a specialty facility in the past year. We are experiencing the same type of unmet need here that restricts the recovery process. Individuals are going without the particular treatment that they need and the problem continues to grow.
Also, the last Statewide Needs Assessment of Co-Occurring Substance Use and Mental Disorders for Hawaii was done in 2008 by the Department of Health. Within the evaluation, 71.7 percent of the respondents recommended more substance abuse treatment on Kauai as one of the most important in considering the multiple needs of consumers who have co-occurring disorders.
Though this study was completed seven years ago and the treatment for substance use has slowly increased, Kauai has still been unable to accommodate the needs of its youth given that there are no residential treatment centers on the island.
As many people know, the office of the mayor and the Life’s Choices Kauai team is working on the development of the Adolescent Treatment and Healing Center, which is in the planning process. By looking at the statistics, Kauai is in need of this facility.
In my experience of working with the Life’s Choices program, and people in recovery, I noticed that more than 90 percent of the clients began using drugs in their adolescent years. If there were more prevention and treatment programs, many of them would not be facing such severe and life-threatening circumstances.
As each week passes, I see such momentous struggle and progress in people with substance abuse and mental health disorders, as they strive to recover. I think everyday about the opportunity they could have had if Kauai had a treatment center for adolescents that might have helped them get an earlier start in achieving their sobriety and guiding them toward creating a better future for themselves.
Kauai should be taking this step forward to fully nourish and cultivate a healthy future by rescuing our children and understanding the importance of recovery.
Uakea Jose is a second- year student at Loyola Marymount University and was an intern in the Life’s Choices Kauai office this summer.