Caring for our ‘sickest children’

HANAMAULU — Lani Nagao’s brother overcame a history of drug addiction.

He didn’t do it alone.

“Today, a lawyer shared her story of helping a man who was in a drug treatment program who was sent off to the detention center. She saw him eight years ago, and this young man was his own business owner, and was fostering children in his home,” Nagao said Wednesday. “This man was my brother. Yes, my brother was an addict. But he has made a change.”

That change wouldn’t have been possible if he didn’t get help, Nagao said in the cafeteria of King Kaumuali’i School.

Nagao, who works at the McKenna Recovery center, hopes the Adolescent Treatment & Healing Center to be built in Hanamaulu will give other Kauai keiki struggling with drug addiction the tools they need to turn their lives around.

“You will be taking care of, with the rest of Kauai, the sickest children,” she said.

On Thursday, ATHC officials presented updates on the center during the Hanamaulu Community Association meeting. About 30 people attended.

Once completed, the center will offer residential treatment, day treatment, intensive outpatient and outpatient treatment programs to kids between the ages of 12 and 17, said Theresa Koki, coordinator for Life’s Choices Kauai.

Currently, kids in drug treatment programs are taken to Oahu. By opening a center on Kauai, the children will be able to remain on their own island and close to their families, she said.

The campus will boast eight beds, a garden, basketball court, classroom buildings, kitchen and an assessment center.

A teacher and counselor will also be on site, Koki added.

“It’s been 10 years since Mayor Bryan Baptiste had this vision and proposed the Adolescent Treatment Center in Hanapepe. He was met with opposition, and it didn’t happen,” Koki said. “We were very fortunate Mayor (Bernard) Carvalho was by his side at the time, and supported the Holo Holo 2020 vision.”

Earlier this year, the Kauai Council voted 6-1 for a resolution to show their support of the center, and submitted a $5 million Capital Improvement Project request to the Legislature. The request, which will be used for construction and site improvements, was approved on April 29.

The next step for the center is to conduct an environmental assessment and get building permits, said John Ventura, an architect with Marc Ventura, LLC.

The one-story center will take the style of plantation cottages, he said.

“It’s a small site to serve the young people who are falling through the cracks,” Ventura said.

During the meeting, some residents asked about security.

While there are not set security measures in place, security cameras will be installed and poplice will patrol at night, Koki said. She emphasized the center will not be a correctional facility. There are two youth correctional facilities on Oahu.

”The hard-core offenders are going to go there,” she said. “We’re going to take kids who suffer from substance abuse or have mental health disorders.”

Chief Darryl Perry said the department will work with ATHC staff.

“Our goal is prevention,” Perry said. “We understand there’s this fear aspect that the kids we’re treating are violent individuals. But the statistics show they are not.”

The center is important to law enforcement because police often have to arrest people who were not helped as kids, and run into trouble with the law later in life, Perry said.

“There was no one for them. So we, as law enforcement, have to deal with the issues,” Perry said. “We want to catch these individuals when they are young to prevent them from going into the drug scene.”

A groundbreaking date is not yet known, but Kirkpatrick hopes to start the permitting process in 2017.

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