By Wendy Osher
A townhall meeting is planned at King Kekaulike High School on Maui on Wednesday night, focused on underage drinking prevention.
“Talk about ground zero,” said County Communications Director Rod Antone. “The timing of this meeting is incredible. We hope the community takes advantage of this opportunity,” he said.
The County felt it was important to inform the community about the meeting considering the fatal crash on Sunday that claimed the lives of five young adults.
While the accident remains under investigation, police say they suspect alcohol and speed as factors in the crash, that was reported south of the King Kekaulike campus near the Kula 200 Hoopalua subdivision.
The meeting has been scheduled for about a month now and is part of a national initiative to combat underage drinking.
Maui Economic Opportunity has been hosting similar meetings for the past few years, but was able to launch the recent round of meetings with the help of grant funding from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Adminstration, and the Hawai’i Partnership to Prevent Underage Drinking. Other partners in the program include the Maui County Underage Drinking Prevention Program and the County of Maui Department of Housing and Human Concerns.
“Our previous meetings have always been in Central, but through this last round of funding we really wanted to reach out to the other areas,” said Maui Economic Opportunity program coordinator Martha Guzman Slores, who said the counselor at King Kekaulike also needed awareness and community building programs for Upcountry.
Similar meetings were held in Kihei earlier this month, and in Wailuku in February. Between 30 and 50 people attended each of the meetings, with as many as 80 people participating in a session held about a year-and-a-half ago in Central Maui, according to program coordinators.
County officials say attendees will have a chance to speak openly about their concerns among their peers and family members, as well as participate in group break out sessions.
“We try to get the audience engaged because its going to take the community to make a difference. It really comes down to everybody putting in some effort,” said Guzman Slores.
In addition to shared information about alcohol and awareness and discussion on matters of interest, attendees at Wednesday night’s meeting will also have the opportunity to hear from Donalyn Naihe of Hana, a community member and longtime partner of the program.
This week’s meeting runs from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 28, 2012, at the King Kekaulike High School cafeteria.
Guzman Slores said she plans to host Maui meetings on a quarterly basis, with the next being planned before July 4, 2012. “We discovered through stats from the Maui Police Department that most DUI arrests happen right around that time,” she said.