When There’s A Monster In The House

Led by two men who know what it’s like to have an ice addict in the family, the Rotary Club of Honolulu develops an innovative program to assist the ohana of addicts

Susan Sunderland
Wednesday - November 17, 2005
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Allen Palmer, Richard Hunter and David Bellino discuss plans to expand the Families In Crisis program
Allen Palmer, Richard Hunter and David Bellino
discuss plans to expand the Families In Crisis

This is another story about the scourge of ice addiction in our community. If you choose not to read further, you’re part of the problem.

Lack of awareness and an inability to put addiction into perspective are issues the Rotary Club of Honolulu is tackling through a landmark program called Families in Crisis.

While courts, recovery centers and therapists deal with drug abusers, the Rotary Club wants to help an addict’s parents and family.

This antidote is really a paradigm shift, a whole new way of thinking about the problem. Families in Crisis is intended to be a model of how people help themselves to help an addict.

That might seem contradictory and confusing, but it isn’t to the 350 members of the Rotary Club of Honolulu who pondered the ice issue two years ago in the wake of town meetings and the release of Edgy Lee’s documentary on addiction, Ice. What can we do, the members asked as they viewed their mission of “Service Above Self.”

A committee approached community and government officials to discuss the matter. Rotarian Richard Hunter drew upon his own experience with a family member and suggested helping parents who are overwhelmed by the impact of living with an addict.

“We can’t get into the rehabilitation business,” he asserted, “but there is a practical thing that we can do.”

The committee became aware of a weekly family counseling program at Hina Mauka in Kaneohe. These are informational meetings, facilitated by an accredited and highly experienced counselor. M.P. “Andy” Anderson, Hina Mauka CEO, told the Rotary Club that “there are so many families in need out there. The family of an addict has to learn to focus on their own well-being. Too often they don’t do that.”

This is the premise of Rotary’s Families in Crisis program, led by committee chair Allan Palmer, director David Bellino and Hunter. The team met with Mitch D’Olier, fellow Rotarian and trustee of the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation to seek co-sponsorship and matching funds.

Weekly meetings cost $5,500 a year for the services of a facilitator. Rotary Club and Castle Foundation agreed to fund a pilot program at Aina Hina in February. Presentations were made to other Rotary Clubs, resulting in a second meeting in Palolo. That program is funded by East Honolulu Rotary and Castle Foundation.

East Honolulu Rotary treasurer Takio Mogi says the kickoff meeting was attended by more than 100 persons, including government and community representatives. Mogi continues to attend the meetings because he, like so many in our town, has an addict in his family.

“When there’s an addict in the family, it’s like a tornado,” he says. “It comes into the home, sucks everybody in, and spits everybody out. It leaves everyone in shambles.”

Family members start to reflect on the highs and lows of the addict.

“The program educates us and provides tools for coping,” he says. “Behavior you thought was extremely unpredictable is extremely predictable. You can understand that only through listening and sharing. Instead of listening to addicts, family members have to become stronger on their own. The mood of the day is not reflected by the addict.”

Turning negatives into a positive is a mantra for Mogi, a successful commercial real estate agent. Attending Rotary camp in high school was life-changing for Mogi, who was inspired by the director to become a better student.

“It turned me around from being a student with 24 Ds and an F to becoming a Yale MBA with a good career,” he says.

With the seeds of Families in Crisis now planted, it’s hoped that other Rotary Clubs will sponsor regional meetings and expand the program statewide. Oahu’s model could then be introduced to Rotary clubs on the Mainland and overseas.

That could be far-reaching in view of Rotary International’s 1.2 million members belonging to 31,000 Rotary clubs in 167 countries.

As Rotary Club of Honolulu observes its 90th anniversary, it celebrates a long record of achievement in social, educational and environmental causes. It was the first club to offer help to kids born with facial deformities. It straightened out Nuuanu Avenue in the 1920s, collected cigarettes for soldiers in World War II, and in 2003 raised over $70,000 to help eradicate polio.

Service organizations such as the Rotary Club are unsung heroes of the community, according to R. Mark Browning, lead judge from the Domestic Division of Hawaii Family Court.

“They’ve done so much good, I’m always impressed and willing to listen to them,” he says. “They’re proactive and committed to making the community better for all of us.”

Acknowledging the merits of the Families in Crisis program, Judge Browning views it as a holistic approach to healing addicts. “In the process of healing the addict, you heal the whole family,” he says. “Miracles occur on a daily basis.

“I intend to refer people there,” Judge Browning adds. “If we as a community don’t decide to put our resources upfront

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