Big Island Drug Court celebrates 49th graduation

  • Shaun Spencer, left, George Cruz, Zachary Danielson, Judje Melvin Fujino, Farren Kanuha, Jay Kruse and Keefe Lerma celebrate Big Island Drug Court Graduation Monday at Keahuolu Courthouse. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Six individuals embarked on a new beginning Monday morning at the recently opened Keahuolu Courthouse during the 49th Big Island Drug Court graduation ceremony.

Circuit Court Judge Melvin H. Fujino welcomed family, friends, dignitaries and sober support individuals as the graduates were adorned in lei, ready for the next chapter in their lives.

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Fujino recounted the journey the six individuals took to get to the day, the dedication and commitment each one made to stay clean and sober.

“All of us have witnessed each of your separate journeys to get here,” said Fujino. “Each of you have followed the roadway to recovery, but each of you created your own roadway. Your journey to get here was not an easy one. Be proud of your accomplishments. Remember, it’s up to you to continue the path and direction you take from today forward. Pursue your dreams and don’t let addiction label who you are.”

Dignitaries offered words of encouragement and congratulations to the graduates.

“Success is the ability to think outside of the box,” said Susan Kim, Gov. David Ige’s West Hawaii liaison. She said the program shows that one size doesn’t fit all, and that approach has helped the individuals graduating “walk the talk.”

Hawaii Police Department Community Policing Officer Reuben Pukahi told the graduates, “if you make good choices, good things will happen. Remember, your past doesn’t determine your future.”

The five men and one woman in the graduating class credited family and the support BIDC provided to keep them on the path to recovery.

Jay Kruse knew he wanted to be done with substance abuse when he entered BIDC. He said recovery is not an easy road and the program is for those who want to make it.

“I wanted to do it for myself, and my whole world changed,” said Kruse as he received his certificate. “This is the beginning of a new journey, it’s not over yet. I got another chance at life.”

Graduates credited their family for supporting them and standing by them through their journey.

BIDC was started in 2002 by retired 3rd Circuit Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra, designed to address crimes related to substance abuse, and provide alternatives to incarceration.

Since its inception, 306 adults have graduated from the program.

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According to program coordinator Grayson Hashida, graduates are tracked for three years after graduation. Some relapse, however, 90% did not get convicted of new felony charges.

“If a new life is what you want, this program can give it to you,” said Kruse.

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