Kauai has been without an inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility since Hurricane Iniki ripped through the island in 1992.
With eight residential beds and room to grow, the county’s soon-to-open Adolescent Treatment and Healing Center in Kapaia is poised to close that gap for drug-addicted youth.
In a community starved for mental health and addiction resources, it’s been a long time coming: Kauai has been through three mayors since the public center was first proposed in 2003.
Young people on Kauai who experience a drug, alcohol or mental health crisis typically must fly to Oahu for treatment. But when all of the state’s drug rehab and psychiatric beds are full, which happens periodically, there’s no place for neighbor island patients to go.
Even in Honolulu, where most of the state’s addiction and psychiatry services are concentrated, patient need at times outpaces practitioner availability.
Kauai’s new Adolescent Treatment and Healing Center is in a rural setting, but close to a hospital.
“I’ve watched over the years kids and families being destroyed and I’ve watched nothing being done,” said Aaron Hoff, a Kauai native who said he has been sober for 21 years.
For years, Hoff has used his home as an unofficial halfway house, working to get friends sober. Five years ago he founded the Keala Foundation, a nonprofit that provides free programs for hundreds of youth, including workouts, competitive athletic events, meals and mentorship.
“The drug culture over here is really an epidemic that there’s no escape from,” Hoff said.
“It’s constant and it’s accelerating because the opiates and the meth are so available with the stuff being sold now on the internet,” he said.
The center was funded jointly by the state and the county. It will be operated by a contracted outside service provider.
Kauai County is currently seeking proposals from vendors to provide mental health and substance-abuse services at the center.
A county spokesman declined to make available officials to discuss the new building and the island’s drug issues while it is collecting and vetting proposals for service providers.
The $7 million center was built on more than 5 acres formerly cultivated for sugar and donated by Grove Farm Company. The facility includes ample open space for recreation and agricultural programs, as well as classroom space staffed by the state Education Department with a part-time teacher.
It is located in a relatively remote area away from neighborhoods, but less than 2 miles from Wilcox Medical Center.
The opening of an on-island residential treatment center for adolescents is cited as a key goal in the Kauai Drug Response Plan, a five-year document that is slated for renewal in 2020.
Here’s the plan for the Adolescent Treatment and Healing Center:
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