LIHU‘E — The Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation is moving forward with plans on taking over the Adolescent Treatment and Healing Center.
Late June, the county began the process of formally handing over the title of the property to HHSC and nonprofit partner Kaua‘i Adolescent Treatment Center for Healing, which is made up of various community agencies, including HHSC, the departments of education and health, Kaua‘i Humane Society and Grove Farm Company, which originally donated the land the center is built on.
The center, which never became fully operational, broke ground in 2018 to be the first on-island facility of its kind in over two decades, replacing one destroyed by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Efforts to get it running have been ongoing, but hit a standstill last year when the center was taken over as a COVID-19-isolation facility.
County Managing Director Michael Dahilig said that HHSC has the “human capital to support the center” and the support of community members through KATCH.
“We felt that in evaluating how KATCH and HHSC want to move forward, they need as much control and as much latitude to be able to operate and create a working model without having the county be in control,” Dahilig said during an informational briefing in front of the Kaua‘i County Council on Wednesday.
HHSC Kaua‘i Region CEO Lance Segawa said some preliminary plans to open the center in phases, but eventually start a dual-diagnosis program, which will focus on both not just substance abuse, but mental health, too, and both in-patient and out-patient services.
“In the past year, we’ve had situations where adolescent kids needing more support have been stuck in our emergency rooms and they were there for days waiting for a transfer to a facility on O‘ahu,” Segawa said. “We could stabilize such a young person at the center as we wait for a potential transfer if it’s needed. It’s such a better alternative than the emergency room.”
Segawa said that while there’s not a timeline in place right now, he can see opening up in six to eight months, but that depends on licensing, which can hold up the process.
“As we put the whole thing together, our goal is to create the best programs that we can have here on Kaua‘i and even statewide,” Segawa said.
Earlier this year, state officials, with community and county partners, announced $1.3 million in the state’s fiscal-year 2022 budget for the nonprofit KATCH, and more recently, the county allocated $200,000 in funds for adolescent treatment.
In fiscal year 2021, the county’s Office of the Prosecuting Attorney was meant to move into the center, prior to the DOH taking over.
“The county today stands at a crossroads regarding the future of the ATHC,” Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said in written testimony. “It is my opinion (shared by the substantial majority of the community) that we should pursue whatever path results in the ATHC opening its doors soonest, and on the strongest financial and legal grounds, to provide desperately-needed services to the at-risk youth in our community.”
Segawa said there has been communication with the DOH on the relocation of the facility.
Kaua‘i District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman said the department is working on alternative sites, but nothing is confirmed.
The 2017 deed between grantor Grove Farm and the county stipulates that if the county were to not use the facility in its dedicated capacity for two years, “the premises shall immediately and without re-entry revert” to Grove Farm.
Grove Farm seeks to have the land reverted and then lease it to KATCH for $1 per year, according to a June statement from KATCH.
Mel Rapozo, a member of the KATCH board, wrote to the council requesting consideration on having the county revert the land back to Grove Farm, HHSC or bifurcate the land to Grove Farm and building to KATCH. However, the council does not have the authority in determining the fate of real property assets owned by the county. That would be up to the Director of Finance, according to County Attorney Matt Bracken.
Dahilig said there has not been communication with Grove Farm about wanting the land back, and suggested submitting open records requests to prove it.
“We have nothing in writing or conveyed to us in face-to-face meetings,” Dahilig said. “If we were to try to resolve an issue based off of hearsay, it would be irresponsible.”