State briefs for March 13

Black tar heroin use skyrockets on Kauai

LIHUE, Kauai — Kauai police have seen an increase in the use of black tar heroin during the past two years.


The Kauai Police Department seized less than a gram of black tar heroin in 2015. But in 2017, the department seized a total of 526 grams.

The department already amassed 80.8 grams this year, said Bryson Ponce, KPD’s Investigative Services Bureau assistant chief. Ponce said the increase is a serious concern because heroin use is linked to violent crime.

“In addition to these drugs being shipped into Hawaii via mail services, they are also being transmitted via the dark web on the internet. People are now using crypto-currency to purchase these dangerous drugs,” he said.

Ponce said drug traffickers turned to street drugs since it became more difficult to obtain large amounts of prescription drugs.

Kauai County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said that 10 years ago he had one deputy prosecutor handle all the drug cases in addition to other cases. But now, he said they have three deputies handling drug cases full time.

“Those cases almost all involve opioids and/or methamphetamine,” Kollar said.

The problem with opioids, he said, is that it does not discriminate.

“Everyone on Kauai knows or is related to someone struggling with addiction, whether or not they know it,” Kollar said.

Brush fire shuts down stretch of Oahu highway

HONOLULU — Honolulu police say a portion of Kamehameha Highway was closed because of a brush fire.

Authorities said Sunday that officers closed off the highway between Whitmore and Helemano, with a detour on Kaukonahua Road.

Firefighters worked to contain the fire, which was burning in a vacant, open area.

However, drivers heading to Oahu’s North Shore were warned to expect heavy traffic.

Nonprofit health center to expand ER

HONOLULU — A nonprofit health center operating an area of Honolulu’s only emergency room is doubling its occupancy for patients with urgent cases.

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Emergency Medical Services Building at the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center now will house 16 exam rooms, an increase from eight, a laboratory and a radiology department, all to be open 24 hours a day.

The building also contains space for the A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine, which is already operating on center grounds.

The building is scheduled to open in June.

Gov. David Ige calls the center an innovative healing center, a cornerstone of the community and the “pride of Hawaii.”


The design of the new ER will increase efficiency and the number of patients treated, said Edward Ho, emergency room manager.

Richard Bettini, president and CEO of the center, said the organization is evolving to be part of the solution for improving residents’ health and address the rising costs of health care.