Interviewed by Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer
Interviewed by Catherine E. Toth
Q. How do you feel about how the state is addressing the current "ice" epidemic in Hawai'i?
A. A lot has happened in the last three years that are very positive in connection with what the state is doing in terms of prevention and looking at the gaps in the system. ... But more needs to be done. For example, there's only one gender-specific treatment program for women and that's a big need. Evidence and research show that the more gender-specific treatment available, the better the outcomes are for women. More needs to be done with providing employee assistance programs for working and employed people. Between 50 and 70 percent of people with addictions are in the workforce.
Q. What has been a highlight of what the state has done in terms of addressing the growing problem of addiction?
A. One of the best things we can say about how the state has tackled the issue of addiction is that we're the only state in the union that has alcohol and drug treatment programs in every single public high school in the state. (Hina Mauka operates 17 of those.) We are the only one, and that really needs to be acknowledged. We have very positive motivation in looking at youth and addiction.
Q. What are your short- and long-term goals?
A. Retire at 85. Actually, our goals for Hina Mauka are to eliminate addiction — a very unrealistic goal. The next best thing: to work toward reducing stigma, then have treatment on demand for people with addiction. There are some 106,000 persons in our state that have drug and/or alcohol dependence. Maybe 6,000 will be fortunate to be admitted to a treatment facility in the state. Adolescents fare worse. Maybe 1,500 to 2,000 will get treatment. Women have one facility that is gender-specific in the state. We need to increase availability in this area.
There is a need for more clean-and-sober housing for people re-entering the mainstream. We need to see more citizen grass-roots activities advocating for these needs, as well as recovering addicts and alcoholics like me letting the public know that long-term recovery is possible and that treatment works for lots of people. We have outcomes that show that.
Q. What have you learned about leadership in your role at Hina Mauka?
A. Leadership has to be the most crucial element in any supervisor, manager or department head. You have to have honesty, integrity, willingness, compassion and tremendous communications skills ... not just speaking but hearing what's being said and what's not being said. ... But, No. 1, you have to have the ability to set the example. You have to be the walking, talking embodiment of what you would like to see in your employees.
Q. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
A. First off, we treat about 2,500 to 3,000 people annually, including educating some 400 family members. So meeting the beautiful people of our great state, the families of recovering people that I meet when I'm wearing a T-shirt with our name on it, at Macy's, Costco, Zippy's or walking through a mall or theater, who say, 'We just want to thank you and Hina Mauka for what you did for us and my sister, uncle, son, cousin ... and how great (that person) is doing.' This happens a lot, and it always brings tears to my eyes and reminds me of how very great the front-line counselors and staff are bringing a message of hope to families that didn't have much hope for their loved one. ... This is the reason why we stay in this kind of business.
Q. What are some of the things people may not realize about Hina Mauka?
A. That we are very diverse in the populations that come to us for services and treatments. We have adolescents on campus school-based services in schools, adults from every island in our residential program and outpatient locations, women incarcerated at Women's Community Correctional Center. ... We currently operate at 20 locations and probably serve 400 people daily. That's about 2,500 to 3,000 people yearly.
Q. What are some of things people may not realize about addiction in general?
A. When a family first becomes aware that something is going on with a loved one who happens to have an alcohol or drug addition, they're usually very confused about what they're seeing or feel guilty about some of the behaviors the addict starts exhibiting. The family usually feels pulled in different directions. ... The family grapples with what's going on. A lot of times the family is ashamed or angry or feel guilty before they realize that maybe it's the drugs or alcohol doing this.
Reach Catherine E. Toth at email@example.com.