Hawai`i Rep. Ed Case today asked a U.S. House subcommittee to approve a $6 million request to fight the spread of crystal methamphetamine, or ice, in the islands. Case is also seeking an additional $1.5 million to establish a statewide educational and awareness program. Ice addiction has reached epidemic proportions here on Sunday, state Department of Human Services director called Hawai`i the “ice capital of the universe,” and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDH) has kept Hawai`i high on its methamphetamine addiction watchlist since 1997.
This past weekend, several Honolulu communities fought back, as hundreds of Windward O`ahu residents lined Kamehameha Highway from Kahalu`u to the North Shore to declare their neighborhoods drug free zones. But much more is needed to turn the tide.
“As I travel to each of the islands in my district, I hear again and again of the damage this drug has done to our families and communities,” Case said today before a U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee. “[The $6 million] would address the parts of my district especially hard hit and not currently funded under a separate appropriation targeting the County of Hawaii.”
A $4 million ice “response program” has already been launched on the Big Island, where police reported a ten-fold increase in crystal methamphetamine arrests between 1998 to 2000.
Case is also asking for $1.5 million to establish “Resist Ice Period” (R.I.P. Hawaii) the brainchild of Hawai`i comedian Frank DeLima, and backed by Lt. Governor Duke Aiona.
“The program… would target young people through public service announcements, a documentary, websites and other media,” Case said.
Law enforcement officials have been saying for months that ice addiction had reached epidemic levels in the islands, and public outrage peaked in December when the drug was cited in the murder of 11-year-old Kahealani Indreginal.
Honolulu had the highest percentage of adult male arrestees who tested positive for methamphetamine among reporting cities, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center a component of the U.S. Department of Justice. And according to the NIDH, Hawai`i also had the highest proportion of methamphetamine treatment admissions among all drug treatment admissions in the nation: 49 percent. The total number of admissions has more than doubled between 1994 and 2000.
The NIDH also reported that methamphetamine-related deaths in Honolulu rose from 35 in 2000 to 54 in 2001.
Securing federal funds is only part of the challenge local agencies face, however.
Koller, who was among the first appointees of Gov. Linda Lingle, said the efficient distribution of federal drug money will be among her department’s top priorities. In a May 4 profile published by Hawaii Community Services Council, Koller lamented that money has sometimes failed to reach the people and programs for which it was intended.
A dearth of proposals and tight deadlines sometimes means federal funds need to be returned, Koller said, saying it’s heartbreaking “when our vendors can’t spend down the dollars and we have to give money back – especially drug treatment money.”
“The need is here – we’re the ice capital of the universe,” Koller told HCSC boardmember John Flanagan. “We especially don’t want to give back any drug money.”