Kauai center to treat young drug addicts
HANAPEPE, Kauai » Kauai has been without an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment facility since Serenity House closed after Hurricane Iniki in 1992.
While the situation is slowly improving, many health professionals say Kauai's addicts are still underreported and underserved.
Officials hope to change things with a new adolescent drug treatment center. Ground was broken last week near Salt Pond Beach Park. Police, politicians, prosecutors and others applauded the new facility.
But the center, which will hold 16 teens and is scheduled to be opened in June, tackles only drug abuse.
For a decade the only treatment available on island was outpatient therapy.
Gail Gnazzo, chief executive officer of the Maui Youth and Family Services, the group selected to provide treatment in the new Kauai center, said about 20 Kauai youths a year travel to the Maui treatment center to get help.
Mardi Maione, a certified substance abuse counselor and head of Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste's drug treatment committee, said there is no way of knowing exactly how many Kauai residents are affected by the disease of addiction, both adults and juveniles.
Between 10 and 25 adults need to go off island for treatment a year, Maione said.
Kauai's Drug Court has been consistently full. So are the outpatient treatment options currently available.
Hina Mauka, a statewide nonprofit, and Ke Ala Pono, a local treatment center, have provided outpatient care on Kauai for years.
Started just last year, U-turn for Christ, a Christian-based treatment program run by Calvary Church, also has seven patients, said Roy Nishida, Kauai's anti-drug coordinator.
Still, "they're underreported" on Kauai, Maione said.
Maione said she is proud to announce Kauai finally has halfway houses for recovering addicts for the first time in more than a decade.
Ke Ala Hoku, a group providing halfway houses, currently serves women, single women with children, and a male house is in the works, Maione said.
But detox programs are nonexistent, and after-care is difficult to find, the experts say.
"Scott," a longtime alcoholic and drug addict, said he had to lie to get into treatment on Kauai last year. In his 40s and a longtime Kauai resident, he told emergency room officials he was suicidal in order to get admitted to a detoxification program for those dually addicted -- drug addicts and mentally ill.
It was his only option to get help, he said. After a month in the Salvation Army program on Oahu, "Scott" has been clean for almost a year.
Despite the gaps in coverage, last week's celebration was to tout progress.
Maione, who has been fighting to get treatment options on Kauai for about a decade, said there is hope in the community now.
"One little baby step at a time," she said.