Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Funds called
key to success
in drug war

The more than 400 guests invited to the Hawaii Drug Control Strategy Summit in Waikiki were handpicked to help the Lingle administration tackle drug and alcohol abuse in the state.

According to a pre-summit survey of participants, in which 224 people responded, more than 80 percent agree with Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona's drug control strategy of prevention and drug education, treatment and law enforcement.

But if current levels of funding and resources are not increased, 65 percent said Aiona's plan cannot work.


"There is strong support for the strategy, but respondents are concerned" the goals cannot be achieved, said Becky Ward, president of Ward Research, which conducted the survey and presented its results at the summit yesterday.

The Ward report said "the lack of funds or resources is the 900-pound gorilla in the room that no one can ignore."

The high approval rating for Aiona's plan should not be surprising given that 29 percent of those responding to the survey work in prevention or drug education, and 26 percent are involved in drug treatment. Law enforcement made up 17 percent of attendees, and community groups accounted for another 15 percent.

More than 60 percent of the respondents said treatment needs to be improved, and 56 percent argued that prevention does. Only 31 percent cited improvements as needed for law enforcement.

In addition to funding, respondents saw other barriers to solving the drug problem. More than two-thirds said there is poor coordination between agencies that address drugs and alcohol.

Almost 58 percent said coordination among the agencies can be achieved through "system improvement." Some respondents suggested centralizing agencies or appointing a drug czar to the governor's Cabinet. Only 11 percent said increased funding would solve the coordination problem.

The survey report said that current financial constraints increase the competition among agencies and could hamper coordination. The report said that as agencies compete against one another for a limited pool of money, they may not be as willing to share information or cooperate.


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