$1.28M drug fund
delay angers some

Despite Gov. Linda Lingle's announcement two weeks ago that she was releasing $1.28 million for drug abuse counseling for middle school kids, the money is still being withheld.

State of Hawaii Hina Mauka managing director Alan Johnson said the state Department of Health selected his agency to be one of the providers on Dec. 23. But five days later, he received a letter from the Lingle administration informing him that the funds for his grant were not available.

When state Sen. Rosalyn Baker (D, Kapalua-Makena), chairwoman of the Senate Health Committee asked state Health Director Chiyome Fukino about it during a hearing, Fukino initially said she was not aware of the situation. After checking with her staff, Fukino told Baker, "I believe that it appears you are correct. And I'm not aware why that is, and I need to discuss that with (Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona)."

Aiona is coordinating the Lingle administration's drug control strategy. When he announced the administration's drug control plan yesterday, he said the focus of prevention will be the middle schools.

The money for middle school drug counseling was part of $2.88 million Lingle said she released for drug education, prevention and treatment programs Jan. 5.

State lawmakers are upset that Lingle has taken so long to release funding. But Fukino said the administration was concerned with the state's financial condition and also wanted to review the programs before releasing the money.

"I still think the gradual release has been a bit prolonged," said Rep. Blake Oshiro (D, Aiea-Halawa Heights).

Lawmakers conducted an informational briefing yesterday to get an update on the progress of the programs they funded under their ice bill. But because the administration released most of the money in November or later, Rep. Michael Magaoay (D, Kaena Point-Kahuku) complained there is nothing for them to review.

Johnson said service providers usually receive funding approved by the legislature in September.

"This was the first time we as providers have experienced such a delay," Johnson said.

He also said providers are being subjected to a tremendous amount of oversight by the lieutenant governor, who has been asking them for information that is already available at the Department of Health. Claire Woods, executive director of The Salvation Army Family Treatment Services, had her own theory on the administration's slow release of money for treatment programs.

"I don't like seeing treatment being held hostage," Woods said. "And I see some hostage-taking going on in this state."

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