Fewer funds force drug treatment centers to close

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They’ve been helping drug addicts in Hawaii for nearly 20 years.

But because of a cut in government funds, the Big Island Substance Abuse Council is closing most of its facilities, including its only on Oahu.

The real story is more people are asking for funds, but there’s just not enough to go around.

A group of people in Waianae is washing cars to raise money for their clean and sober living facility.

“For three months and I think 16 days that I’ve been clean and sober,” said Eric Makekau, client.

“One year and 68 days today,” said Morgan Keawe, client.

“Almost one year,” said Mary Matsumoto, former client.

They believe they couldn’t have done it, without the help of the Big Island Substance Abuse Council in Makaha.

“They don’t put you in a niche and stamp you with a label,” Matsumoto said.

But they’ll have to look elsewhere for help. State and federal funds for the facilities are being slashed, by more than 60 percent forcing the treatment center to close its facilities in North and West Hawaii, and the Makaha clinic on Oahu, by July 1. Twenty employees will lose their jobs.

The facilities on Maui and East Hawaii will remain open, as well as all school-based programs that help teens.

“Of course it’s a big loss, it’s helping out everybody, we’re trying to change,” Keawe said.

We checked further for you and learned the Big Island Substance Abuse Council, may not be the only ones that could suffer.

This year, there’s $19.9 million in government funds available for this type of help. But the government received more than $32 million in requests.

In a statement, Big Island Substance Abuse Council CEO Dr. Hannah Preston-Pita said: “We’re going to continue to do what we do best — take care of our community and provide mental and substance abuse treatment. It’s just going to be on a smaller scale.”

“It’s taught me that life can go on and it’s possible I can get clean and sober and become a productive member of society,” Makekau said.

The clients we talked to say today was the last official day for employees in Makaha. But counselors agreed to work for free until the end of next month.

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