Sean Spriggs, a Palama Settlement outreach counselor, gave his perspective about the drug problem during yesterday's news conference. Behind him were state Attorney General Mark Bennett, left; Frank Lopez, deputy director of corrections; Lt. Gov. James Aiona; and city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle.

Lingle drug plan
focuses on prevention

Law enforcement will
be emphasized more
than treatment under
the new proposals

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona yesterday announced the Lingle administration's long-awaited plan to fight drug abuse, which emphasizes prevention and tougher law enforcement rather than treatment, especially for adults.

"It's prevention, treatment and law enforcement, with the major emphasis on prevention and law enforcement," said Aiona at a news conference in the governor's office to present what he called "Hawaii's Drug Control Plan."


Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona announced several initiatives yesterday to strengthen law enforcement's ability to fight drugs. These include:

» Proposing legislation to make it easier for state law enforcement to get permission for electronic surveillance.
» Allocating an additional $500,000 over the next two years to expand law enforcement's resources to shut down drug houses.
» Proposing legislation to enhance the Attorney General's Drug Nuisance Abatement Team and its ability to obtain court orders to evict drug dealers.
» Establishing a Rapid Reduction Unit within the Attorney General's office to target drug dealers.
» Proposing legislation that imposes mandatory jail time for adults who serve or buy alcohol for minors. » Proposing legislation to suspend the driver's licenses of minors who are caught with alcohol, regardless of whether they are in a vehicle.
» Proposing legislation to curb the availability of common products such as pseudoephedrine (found in many cold remedies), which is used to manufacture crystal methamphetamine.

"Law enforcement has been neglected for far too long," he said.

The Legislature has emphasized treatment along with prevention and law enforcement to battle the state's drug epidemic.

Aiona outlined several legislative proposals he will introduce during the upcoming legislative session that are designed to "give better tools to law enforcement."

These initiatives range from increasing police ability to use electronic surveillance, curbs on over-the-counter drugs such as pseudoephedrine (a major ingredient in many cold remedies) used in the manufacture of crystal methamphetamine or "ice" and mandatory jail time for adults who sell or serve alcohol to minors.

Aiona also requested $500,000 over the next two years to expand an existing program run by the Attorney General's office that shuts down drug houses.

"There is no silver bullet to solve the drug problem," said Aiona. "The closest thing is to support law enforcement, which is on the front lines every day. Giving them enough tools is the closest thing to a silver bullet in terms of abating ice."

When pressed about adult treatment, Aiona said: "Treatment is not a first priority. You can't put your eggs in one basket."

Aiona did say he wanted to create a voucher system so that substance abusers can choose their programs and pay with the voucher.

Aiona said the focus of prevention will be "to target middle schools and to develop effective after-school programs."

Tamah-Lani Noh, the state's drug control liaison, said, "The measures and funding levels we are proposing are designed to provide treatment services to those who need them, prevent illicit drug use before it starts, and give law enforcement officials the tools needed to stop the manufacture and distribution of illegal drugs."

In November 2002, Republican Gov. Linda Lingle declared war on drug and alcohol abuse and charged Aiona, a former drug-court judge, with finding a solution.

During their last session, state legislators passed a $14.7 million anti-drug package, but the Lingle administration continued to study the problem and did not introduce a package.

The Legislature's package emphasized prevention, treatment and law enforcement. The Legislature, which did not grant greater powers to law enforcement last session, stressed treatment and appropriated an additional $4 million for adult treatment and about $1.2 million for adolescent treatment.

Lingle did not sign the Legislature's package, known as "Act 40," which passed into law anyway. Her administration waited until fall to release much of the Act 40 money for adult and adolescent treatment programs.

The plan announced by Aiona came under immediate attack by Democrats.

"This is an insult to our intelligence," said Sen. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua). Hanabusa was one of the chairs of the Joint House-Senate Task Force on Ice and Drug Abatement.

Drug treatment providers also expressed concern.

"It's hard to ignore people who come to your door for help," said Claire Woods, executive director of a residential treatment program and chair of the Hawaii Substance Abuse Coalition.

"I support law enforcement and prevention. We need it. But we also need treatment. Right now, we can treat 5 percent of those who need treatment. Couldn't we just bring that up to 10 percent?"

Woods added: "You can teach prevention or treat all the kids you want to, but if they come home to parents who use, what does that do? Adult treatment is a gaping hole in this plan."

The governor's proposed biennium budget includes $46.3 million for drug and alcohol treatment, with 24 percent of that funding for prevention. That money is not an increase, but instead sustains the funding levels for those programs administered through the state Health Department's Alcohol and Drug Abuse division.

In addition, the governor's budget includes $4 million over the next two years for community and school-based prevention programs and $2 million for adolescent treatment over two years, which includes residential and school-based programs. Both amounts were Act 40 programs for which the Legislature wanted continued funding.

"Well, at least the governor is willing to maintain some of the Act 40 money," said Elaine Wilson, the recently retired head of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse division. "It's better than nothing."

Aiona also wants to establish a Substance Abuse Data Center to centralize computer tracking of drug abuse data and information statewide.

A press statement said: "The data center will be the central point of access for data analysis, evaluation and research." The information will be used by the council "to identify gaps in funding and to allocate funds appropriately."

One treatment provider, who asked not to be named, said, "How many drug abusers looking for treatment will want their name entered into a government-controlled database?"

Office of the Governor

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