BISAC expanding reach to rural areas

  • Dr. Hannah Preston-Pita, chief executive officer of BISAC explains the LEAD program Thursday at the West Hawaii Civic Center. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

The Big Island Substance Abuse Council (BISAC) will be celebrating the opening of a new satellite office in North Kohala July 20 at the Village Hub from 10 a.m. to noon.

BISAC is headquartered in Kea‘au and offers outpatient treatment to men and women struggling with substance abuse and mental health. The organization operates another outpatient treatment facility in Hilo and has offices in Kona as well. Residential Therapeutic Living Programs are also offered in other locations.

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“We decided to do this as a celebration of community but also to inform the public we are opening up a wellness hub in one of two sites, connecting community there with our substance use and mental health programing,” said BISAC Chief Executive Officer Dr. Hannah Preston-Pita. “There will be someone there connecting them vis telehealth services so that they are able to gain access to the needed resources in that area.”

Preston-Pita said clients will be connected to professionals in their Hilo and Kea‘au facilities for treatment.

BISAC is also looking to secure a site in Naalehu, with services anticipated to begin in September.

“We are very excited about this. There has been a greater need in these underserved communities especially recently with COVID and the isolation,” she continued. “We have gotten so many calls. So we thought why can’t we do this? It is an option we can provide for that community.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of June 2020, 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use as a way of coping with stress or emotions related to COVID-19. Overdoses have also spiked since the onset of the pandemic. A reporting system called ODMAP shows that the early months of the pandemic brought an 18% increase nationwide in overdoses compared with those same months in 2019. The trend has continued throughout 2020, according to the American Medical Association, which reported in December that more than 40 U.S. states have seen increases in opioid-related mortality along with ongoing concerns for those with substance use disorders.

BISAC will be partnering with the Food Basket for a food drop at the July 20 drive-through celebration in Kohala, providing resource bags with partnering agencies providing swag, literature brochures.

Also be giving out therapeutic kits to the first 100 vehicles which will include backpacks for kids filled with a stuffed animal, a blanket, coloring books and supplies and toiletry items.

They will also be giving away a bike, a scooter and a skateboard at the event.

“There has been a significant increase in the demand for substance abuse treatment and counseling, especially with COVID,” Preston-Pita said. “Statewide, everyone is preparing for the forth wave (of the pandemic) which will increase the need for mental health and substance use concerns.”

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By providing this service in rural areas, she hopes to mitigate those concerns.

A drive-through celebration is also planned for July 27 at the Naalehu Hongwanji Mission 9:30 to 11 a.m.

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