Decolonizing Our Work During Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Every Month

AANHPI ‘Ohana CoE Team Collaboration

Co-authored by Kathleen Wong(Lau), Ph.D., Joanne Rondilla, Ph.D., and Lilinoe Kauahikaua, MSW.

The ‘Ohana Center of Excellence on Behavioral Health for AANHPIs (Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities) is now in its second year. As we celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, it is time to reflect on our past, present, and future.

Initiatives for AANHPIs often center Asian Americans. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are invited, only as cultural performers or are completely erased.

Simple inclusion does not mean everyone is treated fairly. The term “Pasifika” can help us understand that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are different from Asian Americans in their histories of exclusion, colonization, and cultural strengths.

Image of group and fishing net

Asian Americans have had a long history of exclusion in this country. Comparatively, more resources have been allocated to this community because they are larger in number and colonial processes have historically erased Indigenous peoples. Grouping AANHPIs together often means the unique challenges of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders remain neglected. The ‘Ohana Center of Excellence recognizes that sheer numbers do not tell the story of entire communities.

Our decolonial approach has driven us to incorporate cultural and historical specificity into our community work. This serves to continually disaggregate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander ethnic groups to understand their specific needs. This focus is beneficial to all work centering AANHPIs. 

AANHPI ‘Ohana CoE Team Making Dumplings

We are committed to continually breaking down and adjusting our center’s design, projects, relationships, and organization to address the unfair distribution of resources and lack of representation and visibility for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in behavioral health. We take seriously, the NHPI in AANHPI.

The Power of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Cultural Practices in Healing

Flier for webinar - The Power of AANHPI Cultural Practices in Healing

In honor of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, please join us for a free webinar that is open to all.


What is this webinar about?
This webinar focuses on applying cultural frameworks to build trust and community engagement in behavioral health care services for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities during times of crisis. Participants will gain literacy on key cultural concepts related to health, community identity, and wellness for AANHPIs.

Presenters will share on-the-ground experiences from Lahaina, Maui, demonstrating the application of these principles in building behavioral health support during ongoing recovery efforts. Topics covered include the community response to traumatic events and suicide, serving as a bridge to the community, culturally grounded responses, partnerships and influence, supporting what works in communities, financial support when possible, and the importance of listening to and observing community needs rather than imposing external solutions.

What will participants learn?

  • Participants will learn about applying cultural frameworks central to building trust and community engagement in behavioral health care services and support during times of community crisis for AANHPIs.
  • Participants will gain literacy on key cultural concepts of health, community identity, and wellness for AANHPIs.
  • Presenters will share on the ground experiences of building behavioral health support using these principles during the continuing recovery and healing in Lahaina, Maui.
  • Learn how to adapt these cultural frameworks for all communities impacted by crisis, fostering inclusive and culturally sensitive healing practices.

Who should attend?

  • AANHPI community-based organizations
  • Behavioral health providers, professionals and enthusiasts
  • AANHPI individuals or community leaders
  • Cultural practitioners
  • Community members interested in learning more about AANHPI communities

Looking to receive continuing education contact hours?
Papa Ola Lōkahi (NASWHI-CEP-13) has been designated an approved provider of social work continuing education contact hours by the National Association of Social Workers Hawai’i Chapter. The Papa Ola Lokahi maintains responsibility for the program. This program is approved by the State of Hawaii Department of Health’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division (Approval# ADAD-24-089) for up to 1.5 contact hour(s). NOTE: Participants are responsible for submitting proof of attendance to their respective certification or licensing board. ʻOhana CoE & Papa Ola Lōkahi do not submit this information on behalf of training participants.

Participants will receive a link to verify attendance at the end of the workshop.

This event is presented in partnership between the AANHPI ‘Ohana Center of Excellence and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Office of Behavioral Health Equity with support from the State of Hawai‘i Department of Health, Papa Ola Lōkahi, Ho‘akā Mana, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, and California State University East Bay.

Logos for SAMHSA, Ohana Center of Excellence, Hawaii State Department of Health, Papa Ola Lokahi , Hoaka Mana, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, and California State University East Bay

This event has ended. Watch the replay below.

Coming soon

Download the workshop slides and resources

Guest Speakers & Presenters

Photo of Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D.

Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D.
Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Dr. Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon is currently Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). She previously served as Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) and served in this role for six years. Prior positions held at DMHAS include Deputy Commissioner, Senior Policy Advisor and Director of the department’s Office of Multicultural Healthcare Equity. In her role as Commissioner, Dr. Delphin-Rittmon was committed to promoting recovery oriented, integrated, and culturally responsive services and systems that foster dignity, respect, and meaningful community inclusion.

In addition, Dr. Delphin-Rittmon served on faculty in Yale Department of Psychiatry for 20 years, most recently as Adjunct Associate Professor and previously as Assistant Professor, Assistant Clinical Professor, and Instructor. While at Yale Dr. Delphin-Rittmon also served as the Director of Cultural Competence and Health Disparities Research and Consultation with the Yale University Program for Recovery and Community Health.

In May 2014, Dr. Delphin-Rittmon completed a two-year White House appointment working as a Senior Advisor to the Administrator of SAMHSA with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While at SAMHSA, she worked on a range of policy initiatives addressing behavioral health equity, workforce development, and healthcare reform.

Through her 23-year career in the behavioral health field, Dr. Delphin-Rittmon has extensive experience in the design, evaluation, and administration of mental health, substance use, and prevention services and systems and has received several awards for advancing policy in these areas. Most recently, she received the 2023 Human Values Award from the Art of Living Foundation, the 2023 American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Children’s Mental Health Champion Award, the 2022 Distinguished Public Service in Psychology Award, from the National Register of Health Service Psychology and The Trust, Washington, DC, and the 2019 State Service Award from the National Association of State Drug and Alcohol Directors.

Dr. Delphin-Rittmon received her B.A. in Social Science from Hofstra University in 1989, her M.S. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Purdue University 1992 and 2001, respectively, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in clinical community psychology at Yale University in 2002.

Kathleen Wong(Lau), Ph.D.
Project Facilitator at ‘Ohana CoE, University Diversity Officer at California State University East Bay.

Kathleen Wong(Lau) is the University Diversity Officer at California State University East Bay, where she leads the Office of Diversity providing vision, strategic direction, and support for university-wide efforts to ensure a welcoming environment and systemic equity for members of campus and in its relationship with the surrounding communities. Prior to her current appointment she served in a similar role as Chief Diversity Officer at San Jose State University for six and a half years.

She served as the Executive Director of the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE) and as Director of the Southwest Center for Human Relations Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Prior to that she served as faculty at Western Michigan University and as a research associate in the national Multiversity Intergroup Dialogue Study at the University of Michigan. Her noteworthy accomplishments include co-founding the Journal of Commitment to Social Change on Race and Ethnicity (JCSCORE), and serving as a faculty associate and facilitator for Campus Women Lead, a transformative leadership initiative of AAC&U. As a graduate assistant she helped co-found the Asian Pacific American Studies Program at Arizona State University. She received her PhD in Communication Studies from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. She is a first-generation college student having worked in community-based organizations in San Francisco Chinatown and as a union butcher in Oakland, CA who entered higher education as an older returning student.

She is a bilingual second-generation Chinese American descending from working-class immigrants from Hong Kong who migrated to California in the 1950s under Asian Exclusion.

John Oliver
Project Director at ‘Ohana CoE, Public Health Program Manager, Maui County Branch Chief, Hawai‘i State Department of Health | Ka ‘Oihana Olakino

John Oliver is with the Hawai‘i Department Of Health’s Behavioral Health Administration. Working within Adult Mental Health Division, he is a Public Health Program Manager / Service Area Administrator and oversees Maui County Community Mental Health Center’s locations on Maui, Molokai, and Lana‘i. He is also the Project Director for the Maui County Certified Community Behavior Health Clinic (CCBHC), a project funded by a planning, development, and implementation grant from SAMHSA.

In addition, he is also the Project Director for the newly formed Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander (AANHPI) ‘Ohana Center of Excellence. Funded by SAMHSA, the purpose of this Center of Excellence (CoE) is to advance the behavioral health equity of AA, NH, and PI communities. The AANHPI ‘Ohana Center of Excellence is a resource for mental health and substance use disorder providers, health care providers, and AANHPI communities in the U.S., U.S. Associated Pacific Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands.


Kamaile Luke
Wellness Navigator Coordinator, Hawai‘i State Department of Health | Ka ‘Oihana Olakino

Kamaile Luke serves as the Wellness Navigator Coordinator in Lāhainā for the Department of Health’s Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic. Born and raised on Maui, she is passionate and rooted in her kuleana to her lāhui. For thirteen years, her kuleana has been in working with victims and survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, sex trafficking, child abuse, and counseling survivors of homicide. For ten years, she took her passion for advocacy to Oregon where she was a member of the Oregon Attorney General’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee, Mass Casualty Response committee, and the Psychiatric Security Review Board’s Administrative committee and Legislative Work Group. The work she has done in Oregon extended to working with Kānaka Maoli, Indigenous Peoples, Polynesians, and Asian, Peoples of the Pacific Islands.

Kamaile was called home on August 6th, 2023. In the aftermath of the Lāhainā wildfires, Kamaile immediately came to the aide of her ‘ohana and lāhui. The advocacy, support, and aloha of Lāhainā continues in the work she does with the CCBHC. Aloha ʻāina remains within her always as it is her purpose for the work she continues to do in and for Lāhainā.

Photo of Lilinoe Kauahikaua

Lilinoe Kauahikaua, MSW
Project Manager at ‘Ohana CoE,
Program Coordinator at Papa Ola Lōkahi

Lilinoe Kauahikaua, MSW uses she/her/ʻO ia pronouns and is from Piʻihonua, Hilo on Moku o Keawe (Hawaiʻi Island) but has lived and grown in many other spaces throughout her journey, including Oʻahu, California, and Arizona.

She is a 2021 graduate of the Masters of Social Work program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM), and now serves as a program coordinator with Papa Ola Lōkahi, for all substance use and mental health projects, as well as the AANHPI ʻOhana Center of Excellence focusing on behavioral/mental health and substance use.

Her research focuses include data disaggregation, and Indigenous approaches to: behavioral/mental health, reentry services, incarceration, and substance misuse. She also received her B.A. in the Administration of Justice, with a minor in Hawaiian studies from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, along with a certificate in Hawaiʻi Lifestyles from Hawaiʻi Community College. Lilinoe was appointed by Governor Ige to the Hawai‘i Advisory Commission on Drug Abuse and Controlled Substances and serves on the boards of ʻEkolu Mea Nui, Going Home Hawaiʻi, and Kinohi Mana Nui, and as the cultural committee co-chair for The Going Home Hawaiʻi Consortium, organizations serving the Native Hawaiian community impacted by incarceration and substance misuse. Lilinoe also serves on committees for the Institute of Violence and Trauma (IVAT), and Hawaiʻi SUPD (Substance Use Professional Development) initiative.

Lilinoe received the kāhea to return home and serve her lāhui over 10 years ago and is committed to pursuing social justice for the Native Hawaiian Community. She also enjoys singing, going to the beach, cultural learning, and spending time with ʻohana & friends.

Kumu Kanoelani Davis
Executive Director of Ho‘akā Mana, Kumu Hula, Kahu Pono in Native Hawaiian Healing Arts – Hō‘ā Mana

Kumu Kanoelani Davis is a Kama a Molokainuia Hina and an established Kumu Hula of Ka Pa Hula O Hina I Ka Po La’il’ai and Ho’a Mana Practitioner in the healing arts. She draws from the immense knowledge and wisdom passed down to her by her Papa, Sifu/Kahupono/’Olohe Francis Clifford Leialoha Wong.

Her martial arts training is rooted in the understanding of life and death, with the teachings of Lua, Lomilomi, La’au Kahea, and La’au Lapa’au. Kanoelani shares the traditional methods of her family to help others ignite the fire within and heal themselves.

Kanoelani is the Executive Director of Ho’aka Mana – Native Hawaiian Organization that believes in strengthening indigenous identities. She is a single mother of four daughters and the CEO/Owner of multiple small businesses; one being PoMahina Designs.

Davis is deeply invested in the community, advocating for cultural preservation, conservation, and the protection of natural resources. She has worked as a Cultural Health Navigator with Molokai Community Health Center, coordinating programs and integration between the behavioral health, medical, and dental departments.

Kanoelani has also served on the Executive Board of Directors and is now a part of the Cultural Committee at Molokai Community Health Center. Kanoelani has dedicated her time and efforts to serving the Molokai community and its youth, which is demonstrated in her work with the University of Hawaii’s Department of Psychiatry for seven years as a cultural advisor and community P.I. Puni Ke Ola was the vision of the kupuna who desired culturally integrated substance use prevention resources. Kanoe’s dedication shaped the Western modalities into Native Hawaiian thought processes. Through the evolution of the Puni Ke Ola she built & incorporated makawalu & kilo into the Ho’a ‘Ike curriculum which is utilized to create meaningful and transformative learning experiences. By connecting unique perspectives with knowledge of one’s physical and mental environment, teachers can create a learning experience that is both culturally relevant and academically enriching. A train-the-trainer certification program was developed for the education system (K-12 and College Professors) & substance abuse councils. There are now 20+ certified trainers across Hawaii who utilizes Ho’a ‘Ike.

Aside from her dedication to strengthening indigenous identities via Ho’a Mana, Kanoe finds peace with the elements. She can be found in the highest parts of the forest to the depths of the sea, she enjoys fishing, hunting, and hana no’eau from traditional tools and weapons to dyes and ho’oni’o.

Photo of Niki Wright

Niki Wright, PsyD, CSAC, ICADC
Director, Ho‘okuola Hale and Malama Recovery Services, Staff Psychologist/Faculty, Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center

Niki Wright, PsyD, CSAC is the Director of the substance abuse treatment program and integrated chronic pain management departments at Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center. As a licensed clinical psychologist and certified substance abuse counselor in the State of Hawai‘i, she has dedicated her professional career to breaking the negative social stigma of mental illness, including addiction, and finding creative ways to increase access to care in medically underserved communities. Her primary professional interests include health psychology and working with diverse and marginalized populations. Additional interests include chronic pain management, trauma, systems, and women’s health.

Dr. Wright is also the Chief Behavioral Health Officer at Wahiawā Center for Community Health, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at IMUA Heart, and clinical psychologist for the State of Hawai‘i’s Department of Education in the school-based behavioral health program in the Honolulu District. She has previously taught in the Rehabilitation Counseling Master’s degree program at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa under the Department of Kinesiology and she is a current adjunct professor in the Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy program at Chaminade University of Honolulu. Dr. Wright was elected as the first president of the National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselor’s Hawai‘i affiliate in 2022 and she speaks locally and nationally about various topics related to health inequities and social determinants of health.

In her personal time, Dr. Wright is a National Health Service Corps Ambassador to help strengthen and grow the primary care workforce in areas of the United States with limited access to care. As the Director of Health and Wellness at CrossFit West O‘ahu and a CrossFit Level 1 coach, she believes in the power of movement as medicine for both physical and mental health issues, bridging the gap between health and fitness. Through her impressive work and unwavering commitment to advancing behavioral health services in Hawai‘i, Dr. Wright has made a significant impact on the mental health and well-being of her patients and communities, and continues to be a leading voice in her field.