A treatment facility on the Leeward Coast that meshes Western and traditional Native Hawaiian practices to help people battling addiction has opened a residential shelter for women.

The shelter has helped 12 women since it opened in January.

Since 1987, Ho’omau Ke Ola has helped more than 4,000 people. Clients participate in cognitive behavioral therapy and a 12-step program while also learning Native Hawaiian songs, chants and other ceremonial traditions.

The program is also open to non-Native Hawaiians and accepts donations of toiletries, clothing and money.

At last month’s Waianae Coast Neighborhood Board Meeting, staff members requested the community’s support for the women’s shelter.

Although a Makaha Valley Road home has already been obtained, licensed clinical psychologist and Executive Director Patti Isaacs said that it is important for the community to support the decision to open the facility since clients tend to be stigmatized for their drug involvement.

Malia White, LMHC, CSAC which stands for Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Certified Substance Abuse Counselor gives me a tour of the Clean and Sober Womens Center located at 84-221 Makaha Valley Road. Pictured is one of the rooms of the large residence in Makaha.
Malia White, a licensed mental health counselor and certified substance abuse counselor, gives a tour of the clean and sober women’s center. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“Society in general really does not look fondly on people who have drug addiction,” Isaacs said. “But I think it’s a misunderstanding about who they are.”

She adds that oftentimes women battling addiction are also trying to escape abusive partners.

“That’s why our mission is to create a safe environment for our (clients) to heal,” Isaacs said.

Native Hawaiians make up almost 40 percent of clients served statewide for substance abuse. But the percentage increases in rural communities such as Waianae, according to a report from the state Department of Health.

Gender Health Disparities

While Native Hawaiian women make up almost 20 percent of the state’s adult female population, they constitute 44 percent of women incarcerated in the state, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

Eighty-five percent of incarcerated Native Hawaiian women have children, statistics from the Department of Human Services show.

Outside of prison, child care and other family responsibilities can cause women to not seek treatment or drop out early, said Michele Scofield, a clinical social work specialist who has worked with the residential treatment center Hina Mauka in Kaneohe.

“When you look at the population it’s on average about one female to four males roughly,” Scofield said.

While the number of Native Hawaiian mothers incarcerated for nonviolent crimes continues to grow, 31 facilities in Hawaii offer child care for clients’ children and only two offer residential beds for their children.

Not only do women face different obstacles than men, they also tend to not enter treatment until they have more severe medical, behavioral and social problems, something Isaacs is looking to address in Ho’omau Ke Ola’s new facility.

“It’s trying to create an environment that is special for women,” Isaacs said.

The women’s residential facility allows children to stay overnight and Isaacs also plans to build a playground.

Journey To Recovery

After spending six months in the Oahu Community Correctional Center on a second-degree burglary and drug charges, Pikake Quebatay knew she needed to get out.

Last year, thanks to Ho’omau Ke Ola, she got that opportunity.

After years of sexual abuse and being tossed from family to family in Hawaii’s foster care system, Quebatay turned to drugs as a way to cope.

Clean and Sober Womens Center located at 84-221 Makaha Valley Road. Pictured is one of the rooms of the large residence in Makaha.
A room in Ho’omau Ke Ola’s new women’s residential center. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“I try not to romanticize it but it kind of takes you out of reality for that time and then everything that you were supposed to do you just throw it out of the window,” she said. “ It’s like you don’t care about anything because you just want to hold on to this moment.”

Her parole officer suggested she reach out to Ho’omau Ke Ola. Quebatay agreed and wrote a letter to the treatment program.

Ho’omau Ke Ola picked her up in April last year and welcomed her into the facility with open arms. “Ho’omau Ke Ola is definitely a gem,” Quebatay said.

Quebatay graduated from the program in January and is currently taking Hawaiian courses at the Leeward Community College Waianae Moku campus.

She is also studying to get her certified substance abuse counselor license.

Cracking Down On Drug Offenses

State Rep. Cedric Gates, who introduced a resolution requesting an increased police presence in Waianae, says drugs have always been prevalent among those growing up on the west side.

The measure has been referred to the House Finance Committee.

“It’s really something that I grew up seeing and witnessing,” Gates said. “ I have countless stories about friends who have fallen victim to drug use.”

Gates supports Ho’omau Ke Ola, but he said clean and sober homes should be placed in every council district.

“One of the things that I noticed is we are seeing an increase in these clean and sober homes mainly in the Waianae community and my reservation with that is we can’t have a concentrated area where all these clean and sober houses are located,” Gates said. “We have to look to other communities to help us address this statewide issue.”

He said he plans to meet with state Sen. Maile Shimabukuro, City Councilwoman Kymberly Pine and state and city enforcement agencies to discuss how to address criminal activity in Waianae.

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