LIHUE — Councilman Gary Hooser says it’s obvious that there’s a substance abuse problem on Kauai.
“There’s no question there’s a drug use and abuse problem in our community,” he said.
That’s why he supports the Adolescent Treatment & Healing Center project, which will offer residential treatment, day treatment, intensive outpatient and outpatient treatment programs to kids between the ages of 12 and 17.
“It’s a project worthy of our support,” Hooser said.
During a Kauai County Council meeting Wednesday, Hooser, along with council members KipuKai Kuali’i, Mel Rapozo, Mason Chock, Arryl Kaneshiro and Ross Kagawa, voted to approve $5 million in Capital Improvement Project funds from the state Legislature.
“This is something that is long overdue,” said Mel Rapozo, council chair.
Councilman Ross Kagawa agreed.
“We need to try our best to take care of our children; we cannot send them to Hilo or Oahu and expect them to take care of a Kauai problem,” he said.
Currently, kids in drug treatment programs are taken off-island. By opening a center on Kauai, the children will be able to remain on island and close to their families.
On Wednesday, citing concerns about a lack of a business plan and financial sustainability, Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura was the sole dissenting vote.
“I support an effective adolescent drug treatment that is based on best practices, is financially stable, is effective and is cost effective,” she said. “ATHC is none of the above.”
Because the center doesn’t have plans to help families continue patient care after they’ve been released, Yukimura said the plans aren’t sustainable.
She also raised concerns about the county’s ability to continue to pay for the program.
“We were able to shake loose only $344,000 in the last budget, and that doesn’t give assurances that there will be that money,” she said.
But it is the administration’s responsbility to come up with a business plan and funding, and the council shouldn’t micromanage the administration’s duties, Kuali’i said.
“We are a policy-making body, and the administration is in charge of day-to-day operations,” he said. “We agree we need the center, so let the admin do their part; we have to trust them.”
The money has already been approved by the state, the county is simply approving the release of the funds, Rapozo added.
Moving forward, ATHC officials are partnering with the architect firm, Marc Ventura, LLC, to design the center.
“We’ve had several discussions with the company, who has designed several medical centers on Kauai,” said Theresa Koki, coordinator for Life’s Choices Kauai. “Marc has been meeting with other treatment centers and experts in drug treatment, and is drawing up plans.”
Koki estimates the center will be open in 2017.
Also on Wednesday, the council unanimously approved the appropriation of $700,000 in state funds to renovate the Kauai Veterans Cemetery. That money will go toward upgrading the communal hall, getting electricity up to code and replacing some of rotting structures.