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After 16 years, Kauai finally gets residential drug treatment center for teens

Updated: May. 6, 2019 at 6:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For 16 years, advocates have been pushing for a residential drug treatment facility on Kauai geared toward adolescents.

Thanks to the efforts of Theresa Koki and others, it's close to becoming a reality.

“It’s very much-needed for youth before they become adults that are still using substances,” said Koki, coordinator for Life’s Choices Kauai.

Psychiatrist Dr. Jerry McKenna has treated addicted teens on Kauai for more than 30 years.

He said a residential facility is needed now more than ever to break the addictions of Kauai youth ages 12 to 18 who are hooked on marijuana, alcohol or hard drugs.

“The adolescents are beginning to use drugs and alcohol at a very young age, I mean in middle school,” he said.

Builders from Layton Construction Company are busy putting the finishing touches on the Adolescent Treatment and Healing Center on the outskirts of Lihue.

Koki said the relatively isolated location answered the objections of Kauai residents who didn’t want a drug treatment facility in their neighborhood.

The 16,000-square-foot residential treatment complex sits on five acres of former sugar cane land that was donated by Grove Farm.

“We were just blessed that Grove Farm had this idea that we come up here, which is close enough to the hospitals and neighboring communities but set back a little further in more of a quiet area,” Koki said.

The center has enough live-in space for 16 adolescents at a time. There’s an outpatient wing, classrooms for parents to participate in their child’s rehabilitation, and a certified kitchen.

"I can tell you that they're going to see this place and the people, and they're going to know that this island is saying to them that you're worth it, that our kids are worth it," Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said.

"It's beautiful. It's bigger than I thought it would be," Kapaa resident Ann Croydon said.

She wishes Kauai had a residential treatment facility when her son, Noah, was going through his addiction fight.

"One of the hardest things for me was admitting that my son was an addict, an alcoholic," she said. "The second hardest thing was finding help and letting go of the shame."

With its own center, Kauai will no longer have to send addicted youths to residential treatment on Oahu where they can be separated from their families for long stretches.

McKenna said it’s vital patients and their parents are treated simultaneously.

The center cost $7 million to build, with $5 million coming from the state and $2 million from county. The next hurdle is finding a private provider to run it

"They may get grants from ADAD or some other place to help support it, but I don't think this should be on the shoulders of the county," he said.

The building will be finished on May 20.

Kawakami said the target date for opening the doors to Kauai youth is “as soon as possible.”

“Once that’s up and going, there’s going to be a lot of lives that are going to be saved," he said.

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