By ERIN MILLER
A drug and alcohol abuse treatment program is closing its offices in Kealakekua, Waimea and on Oahu, its CEO said Wednesday.
The Big Island Substance Abuse Council, which is based in Hilo, will close the offices effective July 1, CEO Hannah Preston-Pita said.
“Our funding has been cut dramatically,” Preston-Pita said, adding the program has seen a 60 percent cut in funding for adult services. “It forced us to look at our structure and decide what we needed to do.”
Twenty employees will lose their jobs in the closure, Preston-Pita said.
The funding cutbacks aren’t a surprise, she added.
“We’ve been preparing for this for several years,” she said. “We are looking at other funding sources.”
Preston-Pita said some funding, from federal sources, is funneled through the state to nonprofit organizations. State organizations that provided grants to BISAC included the Hawaii Paroling Authority and Drug Court, she said.
The program will continue to operate Clean and Sober Houses and its Therapeutic Living Program, she said.
Grayson Hashida, administrator for the Kona Drug Court, said the cutbacks are “huge” for West Hawaii clients.
“I’m very concerned,” Hashida said. The organization “takes the bulk of (drug court participants). We don’t promote one program over another. Most of them do choose BISAC.”
The Therapeutic Living Program is especially popular with new drug court participants, because of the services the program provides, Hashida said.
Deputy Public Defender Wendy DeWeese said she worries about her clients being forced to stay in jail longer, now that West Hawaii has fewer resources for substance abuse assessments.
“For us, it’s not good,” DeWeese said, adding she was worried “people are just going to end back up in jail” awaiting court-ordered assessments and counseling.
Two other programs, Lokahi Treatment Centers and Access Capabilities, also provide assessments. Preston-Pita said her Hilo staff will conduct the assessments with West Hawaii residents over the phone, as well, after the offices close this summer.
She is planning a fundraiser Aug. 3 at the Kamehameha Schools Hawaii Campus. Recovery Day 2013 will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and offers a strong man competition, in which Preston-Pita will participate, a dance event, a wellness fair and cooking demonstrations. Some of the events will require a fee to participate, but admission to the event itself is free.
Email Erin Miller at email@example.com.