Ice storm: Epidemic of the Islands

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona unveiled a drug control strategy yesterday.

‘Ice’ game plan
drawn up

U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo
surprises some with his stress
on the need for drug treatment

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona explained his strategy for solving Hawaii's drug abuse problem yesterday with an analogy that draws on a Hawaiian proverb.

"Flowers thrive where there is water, as thriving people are found where living conditions are good," Aiona told the audience of more than 400 attending the first day of a three-day summit in Waikiki focusing on alcohol and drug abuse in Hawaii.

Aiona, a former Hawaii Drug Court judge, told the audience that the Lingle administration's emerging strategy to fight drug abuse is based on prevention, treatment and law enforcement. He said fighting drug abuse is "a top priority" of the administration and will require a long-term commitment of resources.

"We're not reinventing the wheel. We need to fill in gaps in services, reduce duplication of effort and build on successful practices," said Aiona. "We want to bring together the best ideas for improving drug prevention, drug treatment and drug interdiction programs by exploring model legislation, system change, changes in financing and funding, and new community-government partnerships."

Aiona drew up "The Hawaii Drug Control Strategy: A New Beginning," a plan that corresponds to the National Drug Control Strategy.

"There is no one simple answer, remedy or solution," said Aiona.

During the first day of the summit, the major themes of the strategy were discussed by speakers including U.S. Attorney Edward Kubo; Scott Burns, of the Office of National Drug Control Policy; and Larry Williams, executive director of the Salvation Army Addiction Treatment Services.

There was tough-love and tough-law talk, countered by speakers looking for ways to get more effective treatment to more people.

"Many people consider addiction a lack of will power or a law enforcement problem, but it is a disease that needs to be treated as one," said the Salvation Army's Williams.

Williams drew cheers from corners of the room when he urged insurance providers to change their ways and offer more treatment, in particular for those addicted to crystal methamphetamine, or "ice." He argued that ice addicts cannot be treated in 30 or even 60 days. He also said that, like victims of diseases such as diabetes or asthma, ice addicts have relapses and that insurance should pay.

Kubo, who has long argued for tougher search and seizure laws, surprised some in the audience when he spoke of the need for more long-term substance abuse treatment and called on insurance companies to provide longer-term coverage for ice addicts.

"We need more drug treatment programs that are accessible to all, affordable to all," Kubo said, adding that on any given day in Hawaii, 150 to 300 people are on waiting lists for treatment.

Participants in the Hawaii Drug Control Strategy Summit listened intently yesterday as the three-day event opened at the Sheraton Waikiki. Gov. Linda Lingle and Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona were yesterday's featured speakers.

Kubo also surprised some in the audience by suggesting involuntary drug treatment. He said families should be able to petition the court to involuntarily admit a child to drug treatment with proof of drug abuse. Admitting that he was taking a "controversial" stand, Kubo also suggested that schools should be allowed to require students with substance abuse problems to get drug treatment.

As in other public forums, Kubo also argued for tougher state wiretapping laws and changes in the Hawaii Constitution that would revive the "walk and talk" programs in the state's airports so that police could intercept people carrying drugs, particularly ice, into the state.

With "walk and talk," a police officer could engage passengers coming off flights from the mainland with a few questions and possibly stop them if they were carrying drugs. The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled this was unconstitutional in 1992, and police were taken off airport interdiction details.

The "knock and talk" programs allowed police officers to knock on the door of a suspected drug house and ask questions. The 1992 decision ended that practice, too.

Pamela Lichty, president of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, a nonprofit organization, stressed that policies that incarcerate people rather than treat them fail and are expensive. She said addiction should be treated as a public health problem that requires treatment and fixing some of the poor socioeconomic conditions that encourage drug abuse.

"We have spent decades promoting a drug control strategy based on punitive, criminal justice approaches. Yet, by all accounts, our drug abuse problems are worse than ever," she said. "We need a change."


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