Saturday, July 19, 2003

Testing, treatment
urged to combat ‘ice’

Former drug abusers told lawmakers yesterday that random drug testing of students and better drug education could have helped them avoid addiction and that the residential treatment program at Sand Island could be a model for the state.

The Senate-House Ice Task Force heard testimony from both patients and officials of the Sand Island Treatment Center.

"I think drug testing is a start," said William Lee, who said he now owns his own business after undergoing treatment at the center.

"A lot of the parents don't know their kids are on drugs," he told lawmakers.

"No matter what the state does, if a person is not ready, they aren't ready. Once the disease has got a hold of a person, it has to run its course," he said.

Louis Beasley said efforts against crystal methamphetamine are like "putting a Band-Aid on open heart surgery."

Beasley said drug education programs are run by people who have not had much real-life experience with drugs.

"I haven't seen a real drug addict run these programs," he said.

Noel Nahale, a patient at the treatment center, added, "When I was in school and using drugs, I couldn't talk to my parents about it."

Nahale said she has gone through four treatment programs, including one in prison, but the Sand Island center is the first one that has worked.

The programs outside of prison were too short, Nahale said, and there was not enough real-world experience in the prison program.

"I had to be ready and willing to stop," she said. "I learned a lot of things in jail, but there's something about Sand Island that's different."

Mason Henderson, executive director of the 123-bed center, said patients stay anywhere from several months to several years.

Residential drug treatment programs that are dependent on insurance reimbursement last only up to 30 days, he said.

"We treat the individual and not the funding agency," Henderson said. "We don't structure the patient's treatment based on what they (insurance companies) are going to cover."

The center, with 50 staff members, has an annual budget of about $3 million, most of it from state and federal funds, he said.

About 300 to 400 addicts a year go through the program. About 25 percent leave on their own, and another 25 percent are asked to leave. Of those who stay, 95 percent are sober for at least two years, Henderson said.

The patients get counseling and treatment for addiction and other psychological problems at the facility. There is also a transitional housing period as the patients find jobs. They do not leave until they have saved about $3,000 so they will be able to get an apartment and survive on their own.

Henderson said he gets 100 calls a day from people seeking treatment, but the facility is always full.

The treatment center is on former state land and does not pay lease rent.

Sen. Melodie Aduja (D, Kaneohe-Kahuku) said she was impressed with what she saw yesterday. "We do have facilities available for those who do not have the ability to pay," she said, adding that she believes the program could be duplicated statewide.


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