Legislators tour drug treatment center
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer
KANE'OHE Members of the state House-Senate Committee on the Ice Crisis toured the Hina Mauka addiction treatment center yesterday in one of its first steps toward determining what the Legislature can do to address concerns about crystal methamphetamine.
With public concern growing, House Speaker Calvin Say and Senate President Robert Bunda formed the joint committee last week with a mandate to have a strategy of legislative initiatives ready by the next session.
Yesterday's tour, the beginning of what is expected to be a months-long round of fact-finding and hearings, started at the rehabilitation center that has been instrumental in helping communities across O'ahu organize town hall meetings to deal with the abuse of drugs primarily crystal methamphetamine, or ice.
State Reps. Eric Hamakawa, Tommy Waters and Colleen Meyer, and Sens. Melodie Aduja, Fred Hemmings and Lorraine Inouye met with recovering addicts and Hina Mauka staff. The lawmakers emerged believing that the committee and the Legislature should reassess priorities, said Inouye.
"I think doing rehabilitation and assistance to Hina Mauka and this type of facility should be a priority," said Inouye, D-1st (Hamakua, S. Hilo). There is no treatment center on the Big Island, which needs them badly, according to Inouye.
Hina Mauka chief executive officer Andy Anderson agreed that more community-based outpatient treatment is needed.
It's the most effective and least expensive treatment option, Anderson said. But he also said treatment alone is not the solution.
"As the ice epidemic is spreading, we recommend that we have a multi-solution perspective that includes education, prevention, enforcement, treatment and incarceration," Anderson said.
He called for drug addiction to have parity with recognized diseases, to allow for better medical coverage and reduce the stigma attached to being an addict. Too many people avoid early treatment because of the stigma, he said.
He also recommended that Hawai'i's high school drug treatment programs be expanded to middle schools. Some 24.2 percent of Windward O'ahu eighth-graders participating in a recent state Department of Health study admitted to alcohol use in the past 30 days. Twelve percent of eighth-graders participating in the study said they had used marijuana in the previous 30 days.
Committee members heard from a recovering drug addict and alcoholic about the need for treatment, but even Sam Kalilikane, 36, admitted that it took several tries to kick his 20-year habit.
"For me, ice was the quick way to escape reality and not face any fears," Kalilikane said. "When I'm on ice, it made me feel superior; everybody else was below me and I was on top of the world."
Kalilikane, who said he was incarcerated for a time, said drugs were easily available in jail. He said that he started on the road to addiction by drinking in middle school and that not enough is being done to help teens avoid the problem.
His goal is to help youths. He said he's been clean and sober since late February.
Hamakawa, D-3rd (Hilo, Kea'au, Mountain View), and Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawai'i Kai), agreed that the Legislature should take several approaches, including prevention and education, in addressing the ice crisis.
Hamakawa said that while there are people and programs taking such an approach, he's not sure the efforts are effective. "I think they may be disjointed and maybe part of our job is to pull them together and provide coordination," he said.
Communities should recognize that addicts may need two or three tries to break the habit, Hemmings said, but residents should be protected from violent addicts.
Government can pass laws that empower different lines of defense, provide rehabilitation opportunities and protect against violence, Hemmings said.
"There's no one solution," he said. "The solution must be multifaceted."
Reach Eloise Aguiar at firstname.lastname@example.org or 234-5266.