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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, August 25, 2002

Concerted effort needed to fight 'ice'

 •  Local News story: Drivers high on 'ice' worry police

By Dan Inouye
Democratic U.S. senator representing Hawai'i

For any parent, the fear of their child getting involved with drugs is great, and the reality overwhelming. All of your hopes and aspirations vanish, as you try to cope, and "fix" the problem, amid pangs of guilt that as a parent you had somehow failed along the way.

Of the nearly 1,500 Big Island children under court supervision, 85 percent are "ice"-related cases. On O'ahu, police on a raid collect chemicals used in making the narcotic.

Advertiser library photo • July 18, 2001

Last August, I received a sobering briefing from retiring Big Island Police Chief James Correa and Mayor Harry Kim about the rising crystal meth or "ice" problem in their county. I asked for the meeting after learning about community meetings where residents came together throughout the island to talk about the devastating impact of crystal meth on their families. This drug knows no class boundaries — it affects rich and poor, educated and illiterate. I was saddened by what I learned.

Ice is a highly addictive drug in the amphetamine family. It was exported from Asia to the United States through Hawai'i. Because meth produces a very long-lasting high, and is both inexpensive and highly addictive, its use became widespread in a short time. From 1998 to 2000, there has been a five-fold increase in the number of ice-related arrests on the Big Island — from 58 in 1998 to more than 300 in 2000. During the same period, cocaine and heroin arrests remained flat. At present, nearly 1,500 Big Island children are under court supervision or in the custody of Child Protective Services. Eighty-five percent of these children are meth-related cases, having been abandoned, abused or neglected by addicted parents — or are addicted themselves.

At that moment, I committed myself to be a part of the solution in stemming the tide of ice that is threatening to freeze out a sizable number of our next generation. What I learned from my preliminary research is that there is no silver bullet, no easy answer. It is not only about additional law enforcement resources, increased rehabilitation services or better education, prevention and alternative activities in the schools. It is all of the above, working together.

U.S. Sen Dan Inouye says there is no easy answer to Hawai'i's cystal methamphetamine problem.

Advertiser library photo

This is the very strategy that will be used at the upcoming Crystal Meth Summit on Tuesday in Waikoloa. This is the fourth such summit to be held nationally, and it will be sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Crime Prevention Council. I am very pleased that the head of the DEA, Asa Hutchinson, will join me, Kim and acting Police Chief Lawrence Mahuna in opening the summit and signaling the summit's importance as a national model.

The plan is quite simple. About 300 stakeholders representing all facets of society — educators, law enforcement, nurses, parents, emergency-room personnel, healthcare providers, cultural practitioners, media, the faith community, federal, state and county government officials, and community leaders — getting together for a full day of identifying solutions and barriers to achieving success, followed by recommending actions, both short- and long-term. Post summit, a steering group will be established to follow through on the list of action steps.

Resources, whether financial, technical expertise, or sweat equity, will all need to be put on the table and committed as integrated solutions are devised. For me, I am committed to priming the pump, having already secured the financing for a new drug enforcement lab for the Big Island police department and a substance-abuse grant to be managed as a partnership by the Bay Clinic. I am also in the process of setting aside Department of Justice money to support the implementation of some of the key recommendations that will come from the summit. However, I also know that to be successful, the solutions must come from the communities, and in the long term, maintained in some way by the county.

Police confiscated several dangerous chemicals during a raid at a Kane'ohe home last year.

Advertiser library photo • July 18, 2001

It is not only about money. It is also about innovation and commitment. It is about increasing federal law enforcement presence and setting up a Drug Court, while at the same time, providing sufficient rehabilitation services on the island to allow families to support the healing process. It is also about providing our young people with alternative activities and options, including access (whether through a bus system or technology) to a more hopeful future path.

The interest and positive response to the summit has been overwhelming. It would be fair to say that we are "sold out." That is most heartening. It demonstrates a desire for people from all walks of life to come together as a community and a county to work toward a comprehensive response to the ice epidemic. This could very well provide the architecture of a solution for the other counties and the state as a whole.

Stay tuned as the Big Island comes together for an ice meltdown. I am very hopeful that it will warm our hearts and propel us collectively into action.