7 men graduate Big Island Drug Court

  • Big Island Drug Court Judge Melvin Fujino stands with seven Big Island Drug Court graduates after being recognized for completing the program Monday in Kealakekua. (Tiffany DeMasters/West Hawaii Today)

KEALAKEKUA — The Big Island Drug Court team celebrated National Drug Court Month on Monday with a graduation.

Family, friends, fellow drug court participants and the drug court team gathered to recognize seven men at the Big Island Drug Court ceremony. Retired 3rd Circuit Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra and founder of Big Island Drug Court, was also present to support the program and celebrate the men’s accomplishments.

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Drug Court Judge Melvin Fujino opened the program by welcoming everyone to the ceremony. The courthouse on Halekii Street smelled of pikake, tuberose and plumeria as graduates and team members were adorned with lei. Fujino said he’s witnessed all of their separate journeys to get to this moment.

“Your journey to get here was not an easy one,” Fujino said.

The judge reminded the men to be proud of their accomplishments and to continue to utilize to the tools they’ve learned.

“The true test is the test of time,” he said.

Ibarra founded Big Island Drug Court in 2002.

“It was four years ago that I stood up here and handed the helm over to my colleague, Judge Fujino,” Ibarra told the crowded courtroom Monday.

Ibarra was happy with the program he started that now has 70 participants in West Hawaii’s adult drug court alone.

“I can sleep at night knowing what we started and Judge Fujino is the man!” he said with a smile.

Without the community, Ibarra added, the program doesn’t work.

“It’s easy to start a program, it’s harder to sustain it,” Ibarra said. “In the big picture, if you don’t have the support it won’t continue.”

Drug addiction impacts everyone. It doesn’t discriminate.

“Drug court is a community solution to a community problem,” said Deputy Prosecutor Mark Disher. “We have sons, fathers, brothers represented in this class, but they have taken steps to a clean and sober lifestyle.”

Each graduate was recognized individually. They were Joey Wike, Scott Parrish, Zackary Meno, Donovan Soares, Adolpho Pascubillo, Keoni Cassidy and Matthew Malapit.

Wike entered drug court on April 10, 2017. Before drug court, he said, things were pretty tough.

“I was a heroin and ice addict,” he said. “Drug court gave me the structure I needed and now I’m here.”

Wike’s father, Gerald expressed his gratitude to the program and the people involved in helping his son get sober.

“Thank you for everyone who didn’t give up on him,” Gerald Wike said, as he held back tears. “I can tell you, the hardest thing is to see someone you love at the bottom. So, thank you.”

Pascubillo started drug court in May 15, 2017. He didn’t want to enter the program, but his lawyer convinced him otherwise.

“Where I come from it’s all about surviving,” Pascubillo told the group as he stood proudly on his one leg supported by crutches. “I never know I needed help. I’m glad I came to drug court. It changed my life.”

Andi Pawassarat, executive director at Bridge House, a therapeutic and sober living program, talked about Pascubillo as a hard worker.

“He can work as hard or harder than everybody else,” she said.

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Cassidy started the program on June 5, 2017. He was sanctioned five times, including an incident where he had to where an ankle monitor. Today, he has good health, a good job and has a relationship with his parents.

“It’s been intense,” he said. “Congratulations, everybody.”

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