Sunday | October 22, 2017
About Us | Contact | Subscribe

Substance abuse center has will to survive


Tribune-Herald staff writer

The world’s greatest strongmen all have one thing in common: the ability to consistently push their own limits, making the impossible possible.

Through a combination of the right genetics, dedicated preparation, and sheer willpower, they can pull tractor trailers weighing several tons, lift seemingly unliftable amounts of weight, and perform other incredible feats of strength while displaying inhuman levels of endurance.

It is fitting then, that as it struggles to provide services in the face of dwindling resources, a Hilo-based drug and alcohol abuse treatment program is betting that a fundraiser featuring a strongman competition will help the organization to keep pushing its own limits — to do more with less.

“We’ve handled about 2,000 individuals yearly,” said Big Island Substance Abuse Council CEO Dr. Hannah Preston-Pita, “… and we normally have a budget of about $6 million a year. But our adult programs were cut about 70 percent this year. … Our total budget is $5 million (now).”

A combination of federal and state belt-tightening — as well as increased competition from other nonprofit organizations for vital grants, with the number of applicants in Hawaii roughly doubling — served to cut various sources of program funding for BISAC this year, resulting in the organization shutting down on July 1 three of its offices in Kealakekua, Waimea and Oahu, she said.

The decision to shut down those offices was about maximizing the funds the organization was left with, and it was decided that maintaining separate facilities would be too large a drain on the budget.

“The Waimea and Kona offices made up about 25 or 30 percent of our clientele,” Preston-Pita, a psychologist, said. “And even that wasn’t really enough for the community. We needed more. … Now, we are forced to review our current programs and look at how we could be more efficient, and look at ways we can improve services.”

While the West Hawaii and Oahu offices have been shut down, BISAC intends to continue offering services for clients through partnerships with various organizations, including the Kona Drug Court, the state’s probation program, Hope Services, and Hui Malama Ola Na Oiwi.

“We’re willing to look at other options,” she said.

Meanwhile, administrators want the public to know that the Hilo facility, located on Waianuenue Avenue across from the Hilo Public Library, remains open and active, she said.

Among BISAC’s offerings are its Intensive Outpatient Substance Abuse Services, providing a minimum of nine hours per week and maximum of 19 hours of face-to-face treatment; its Outpatient Program, providing between one and eight hours per week of face-to-face treatment and a minimum of one hour of individual counseling; its Therapeutic Living Programs, giving clients a structured environment with 24-hour staffed facilities providing ongoing evaluation, care, life skills, self-help, encouragement, and transportation to social activities and therapeutic services; as well as its mental health treatment programs.

Current and former clients have weighed in on the programs, saying that they were provided the opportunity to acquire new skills that allowed them to stay sober, stabilize their home lives, and even find work, according to anonymous testimonials provided by BISAC.

“Coming to BISAC is a good thing for me,” said one client. “Keeps me positive, sober and open-minded.”

On Aug. 3, BISAC will hold its ninth annual fundraiser, the Health and Wellness Recovery Day, providing plenty of entertainment, food, family games and more. Running from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Keaau campus of Kamehameha Schools, the event raises much needed funds for the organization, while helping to spread the word about health and wellness, Preston-Pita said.

And this year, for the first time, the event will include the E Kani Ka Iwi Competition, featuring 12 of the strongest men in Hawaii as they flip massive truck tires, tow tractor trailer rigs, and carry heavy loads in a series of seven events between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“I’ll be competing, too,” Preston-Pita said. “I come from a power-lifting family. It’s something I used to do with my father, so I’m in training.”

Among those planning to attend will be Oahu strongman and police officer Buddah Kobayashi; Preston-Pita’s father, Toe Preston; and Taylor Wily, the actor who portrays Kamekona on the new “Hawaii Five-0.”

The fair will also feature guest chef demonstrations cooking healthy meals, and a Move & Groove-a-Thon with a mix of music, Tahitian Cardio, and Hot Hula.

The ninth annual Health & Wellness Recovery Day will be a drug, alcohol, e-cigarette and tobacco-free event.

For more information, call (808) 969-9994 or visit

Email Colin M. Stewart at


Rules for posting comments