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Maui coalition calls for more drug treatment programs
January 22, 2004

WAILUKU - A coalition of Maui social service agencies is calling on the state Legislature to support drug treatment programs and resist administration recommendations for revising laws on criminal investigations.

The "vision" for solutions to the community's substance abuse problems has been shared with state lawmakers, the "After Summit Coalition" said during a presentation Wednesday.

The group said there is a need for more and better treatment for individuals addicted to drugs and alcohol. But group members said they oppose any amendments to the state constitution that would increase the powers of law enforcement agencies as a way to deal with drug-related issues.

"We believe the tools currently in the hands of the police are adequate," the group said in its statement, citing jails and prisons already crowded with violators of state drug laws.

The group also called for substance abuse to be more widely recognized as a health issue, requiring treatment.

"People who commit crimes as a result of their substance abuse disorder should be punished for their crime and treated for the disorder," the statement said.

Drug testing should be used only in conjunction with treatment, a wider range of treatments should be available, and children suspended from school should be better assessed for substance abuse issues.

The coalition's statements were aligned with the position of a Joint House-Senate Task Force on Ice and Drug Abatement that is recommending a $21.6 million multipronged program that emphasizes intervention and treatment for teenagers.

In announcing the proposal last week, the legislative task force said the growing abuse of crystal methamphetamine "is a public health crisis that must be cured."

But Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, while supporting recommendations to provide youth services, still criticized the failure of the legislative group to consider changes in laws to support drug investigations.

Gov. Linda Lingle also called for the Legislature to support tougher law enforcement efforts against drug dealers. The administration is supporting a change in state wiretap laws to allow use of evidence gathered by federal law enforcement agencies.

Lingle also supports an amendment to the state constitution to allow police to revive the airport "walk and talk" program, in which officers approach individuals who fit a profile and ask to look into their luggage. The program was struck down by the Hawaii Supreme Court as a violation of a privacy provision in the constitution.

Maui coalition member Verdine Kong, a former deputy public defender who now heads the BEST Reintegration Program, said she visited state legislators last week to present the recommendations.

She said the group would continue to testify before the Legislature during the session that opened Wednesday and will offer its opinions on bills being considered by state lawmakers. Another goal was to meet with Department of Education officials to discuss substance abuse issues in Hawaii schools.

The group calls itself the "After Summit Coalition" because its goal is to follow up on the Hawaii Drug Control Strategy Summit held in September by Aiona.

It comprises eight health and social service agencies and programs: Maui Economic Opportunity, BEST Reintegration Program, Community Clinic of Maui, Head Start's "Free to Grow" Program, Maui Youth and Family Services, Aloha House, Hina Mauka and Malama Family Recovery Center.     

(Written by Ilima Loomis, January 22, 2004 and reprinted with permission from the Maui News,


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