LIHUE —A $5 million project to allow development of a substance abuse treatment and healing center for adolescents was unanimously approved by the Planning Commission Tuesday.
Planning Commissioner Sean Mahoney commended the collaboration on a project that he said has been needed for a long time.
“It’s just something that we need desperately, and I think it’s going to be a great asset to the community,” he said.
Theresa Koki, Life’s Choices Kauai coordinator, said the Adolescent Treatment & Healing Center will be a whole continuum of services no matter what a child is experiencing.
“Whether it’s substance abuse or even the mental aspect of it, they can come to the center which is created for them in a holistic approach,” she said. “It’s like a second house for them. The family component will be mandatory.”
She said construction is estimated to begin early 2018.
The center is slated to be built on 5.8 acres on Maalo Road and will be 15,000 square feet. The facility will house 16 beds with additional expansion for 10-15 beds and plumbing. The facility will also include transgender and cisgender bathrooms.
The project is funded in Capital Improvement Project funds approved by the county council in September and will offer treatment for children between 12 and 18 years of age.
The land was donated by Grove Farm.Center will offer patients a facility to be treated on island, keeping them close to their families. Children who are treated for substance abuse and other addictions are currently flown off-island.
Commissioner Heather Ahuna said the cultural approach of the project is important. That will include a lo‘i for the children as well as time for them to be educated.
“Getting the kids back on the aina and learning who they are … is high rate to Native Hawaiians,” Ahuna said.
Kimberly Cummings, clinical director for Women in Need Hawaii, wholeheartedly supports the center.
“This discussion has lasted decades. Today, many children have passed. Some of grown to be offending adults, now incarcerated,” she said. “Addiction is very much alive and very real. Our children deserve the proper environment it takes to heal from trauma, addiction and the many issues that arise.”
Brian Kohatsu, a licensed clinical social worker and certified substance abuse counselor, said Kauai’s youth are in a desperate situation for treatment.
“It seems like until we get a handle on dealing with the juveniles, we continue to see the flow of substance abuse and crime that continue to come to our community,” he said. “One of the gaps in service is a residential treatment center for adolescents. It is a desperate call that I am here to say that we need this facility.” The facility, he said, offers hope.
“We need to build that support here,” he said. “We need a sense of place.”