Strength in (reduced) numbers: BISAC survives


The world’s greatest strongmen all have one thing in common: The ability to consistently push their own limits, making the impossible possible.

Through a combination of the right genetics, dedicated preparation, and sheer willpower, they can pull tractor trailers weighing several tons, lift seemingly unliftable amounts of weight, and perform other incredible feats of strength while displaying inhuman levels of endurance.

It is fitting then, that as it struggles to provide services in the face of dwindling resources, a Hilo-based drug and alcohol abuse treatment program is betting that a fundraiser featuring a strongman competition will help the organization push its own limits — to do more with less.

“We’ve handled about 2,000 individuals yearly,” said Big Island Substance Abuse Council CEO Hannah Preston-Pita, “and we normally have a budget of about $6 million a year. But our adult programs were cut about 70 percent this year. … Our total budget is $5 million (now).”

A combination of federal and state belt-tightening — as well as increased competition from other nonprofit organizations for vital grants, with the number of applicants in Hawaii roughly doubling — served to cut various sources of program funding for BISAC this year, resulting in the organization shutting down on July 1 offices in Kealakekua, Waimea and Oahu, she said.

“The Waimea and Kona offices made up about 25 or 30 percent of our clientele,” Preston-Pita, a psychologist, said. “And even that wasn’t really enough for the community. We needed more. … Now, we are forced to review our current programs and look at how we could be more efficient, and look at ways we can improve services.”

While the West Hawaii and Oahu offices have been shut down, BISAC intends to continue offering services through partnerships with various organizations, including the Kona Drug Court, the state’s probation program, Hope Services, and Hui Malama Ola Na Oiwi.

“We’re willing to look at other options,” she said.

Meanwhile, administrators want the public to know that the Hilo facility remains open and active, she said.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 3, BISAC will hold its ninth annual fundraiser, the Health and Wellness Recovery Day, at the Keaau campus of Kamehameha Schools. Event proceeds support the organization, while helping spread the word about health and wellness, Preston-Pita said.

This year’s event will include the E Kani Ka Iwi Competition, featuring 12 of the strongest men in Hawaii as they flip massive truck tires, tow tractor trailer rigs, and carry heavy loads in a series of seven events between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.