Having Faith In Getting CleanTommy and Malia Tokioka – who have been there, done that – offer a faith-based treatment program for substance abusers at Kokua Hale
Malia and Tommy Tokioka of Kokua Hale offer hope, health and healing to those suffering from substance abuse.
“It’s a passion for me,” says Malia, who has been working with teen and adult addicts on the island for 10 years. “I felt it was a calling for me for a while.”
Even though the nonprofit, which provides treatment and education, averages around 50 new clients a month, last year the success rate for individuals remaining clean and jail-free was 73 percent.
Substance abuse is a problem on Kaua’i, says Tommy, who works alongside Malia not only at the center, but also creating melodies together as musicians.
“As long as drugs and alcohol are around, I don’t see it getting any better,” he says.
Addicts will always find a way to get high and even currently go so far as to smoke and inject prescription drugs.
Even if they shut out meth on Kaua’i, addicts will find something else, agrees Malia.
“I know there’s definitely a need for this,” says Tommy regarding Kokua Hale, which was founded in 2005. “I feel compelled that I have to do it.”
The organization provides assessments for all new clients, and treatment programs vary according to each individual’s needs. The minimum treatment period is 24 sessions, and clean and sober halfway houses for men and women are located in Lihu’e, where people have the opportunity to slowly transition back into the community.
Even though clients stay voluntarily, Malia has kept individuals for up to a year because she felt they weren’t ready to leave the program. A recovering addict for 20 years, she feels a personal connection to her clients.
“I’ve seen what it does to friends and families,” says the certified substance abuse counselor. “I think people connect better with people who’ve been through it. It doesn’t necessarily make us better counselors, but I think when someone relapses there’s a little bit more compassion.”
What sets Kokua Hale apart from the handful of other substance-abuse treatment programs on Kaua’i is that it is a faith-based organization.
“We use a spiritual component implemented with the treatment,” explains Malia. “We promise to bring the client halfway, then we implement the spiritual component to help them tap into their higher power and bring them all the way.”
Of course, not everyone is comfortable with the faith-based program, and Malia adds she is happy to help folks find something that better suits them.
“They have a choice,” she says.
But she believes the spiritual element can be strong.
“I feel that it helps because I’m just a human being, I can only bring them so far,” she says. “They’re going to need more when they’re out there in the real world. They’re going to need that when they’re between a rock and a hard place. They may not have their support right there, and that’s when they can tap into it – they’ll have that relationship already. So we teach them about relationship and not necessarily religion.”
Regardless, recovery has to be fun.
“That’s my main thing. You have to get something out of it, or why do it? They get something out of using so it’s about replacing that with something positive,” she says. “We laugh a lot. We have a lot of fun.”
Tommy and Malia are an inspiration, says Tina Albao, Kokua Hale’s community developer.
“They do a really good job. They come in and help people who don’t have anything,” she says.
And not only is Malia providing treatment, she is always creating new programs.
Currently, the nonprofit is developing a curriculum for anger management, and the next goal is to provide a therapeutic living program with 24/7 residential care.
“We definitely need a residential because the beds on Oahu are filled,” says Malia.
Violence is on an uptick, and while offenders are mandated by the courts to attend anger-management therapy, there aren’t enough institutions to supply the service on-island.
“We have the facility and the capability and there’s a need, so we’re creating a solution for that,” she says.
The organization also provides funding for those with low to moderate income, and medical insurance is accepted.
“If they can’t afford it, we won’t turn them away,” says the former Hina Mauka Teen Care employee.
Above all, it is the individual’s own desire to get clean that must prevail.
“We help you help yourself,” says Malia.
“What we’re here for is to help you get clean, you’ve got to do your part too.”