Hale Opio plans to focus on mindfulness programs, continue outreach

KAPAA — To say Kevin Lowry likes what he does would be a big understatement.

Here’s how he described being director of Hale Opio Kauai’s residential treatment programs: “I am the luckiest man alive. I have the greatest team of people that work for me, hands down.”

“We’re like the hidden people who are working 24/7 with all our kids,” he added.

Lowry spoke briefly at the annual meeting of Hale Opio, which was held Thursday at the Courtyard by Marriott. About 60 people were given an outline on the nonprofit’s successes, goals and challenges.

“We want to do more,” said Vonn Ramos, executive director.

Since 1975, Hale Opio has helped more than 10,000 island youth and families. It has a staff of about 50 and provides about 20 programs at no cost — annually reaching more than 500 young people — that teach skills, strengthen relationships and offer opportunities for positive development.

In FY 2018, 1,014 participants attended monthly family engagement activities put on by Hale Opio held across Kauai.

Its influence extends to Kauai Teen Court, First Jobs Academy, educational services, anti-bullying programs and street program outreach.

“It’s hard to reach the youth,” said Priti Tayal, with community programs. “It’s hard to know where they’re at.”

But that doesn’t stop them from trying — and succeeding.

A goal is to provide clients with skills and support.

“We want to be sure we’re making an impact, an impact that will be long lasting,” he said.

Ramos, born and raised on Kauai, came on board three years ago. He praised his staff as “the ones that are out in the community, in the trenches, working closely with parents.

“They make it an easier task for me to go after the funding,” he said.

Hale Opio Kauai had total revenue and support of $1.36 million in 2018, up from $1.1 million in 2017. Its support services total expenses in 2018 were $1.18 million, up slightly from $1.14 million in 2017. Its change in net assets went from negative $72,307 in 2017 to $184,113 in 2018.

“This fiscal year, we’re really focused on collaboration,” Ramos said.

Hale Opio is gearing up for its 2020 reaccreditation and is assessing programs, services and operations.

“We have a big review coming up, so we are prepping for it,” he said, adding they sent out emails asking what Hale Opio does well and what it can do better.

A big focus this year is on “mindfulness” and thinking about solutions “rather than just being present.”

“I think that could be said for all of us,” he said.

Another key area is community development.

“We want our hale to be open,” Ramos said. “If someone has a need and we can’t meet their need, we can find someone who can — we try to go above and beyond.”

He spoke pulling resources together for the benefit of all who turn to Hale Opio.

“Whoever comes to us, we’ll be sure to get them the support they need,” he said.

Initiatives for this fiscal year include recruiting more “Professional Parents,” building capacity in in-home services, enhancing Kauai Teen Court, expanding street outreach program, and strengthening services in the areas of sibling reconnections, fatherhood, workforce development and educational workshops.

It will look to build on prevention programs on tobacco, bullying, substance abuse and suicide.

While youth can be prideful and don’t always want help, Ramos said they will never stop reaching out.

“It is our responsibility to continue to nurture our youth in whatever way we can,” he said.

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