In 1979, there were no employment-oriented vocational rehabilitation programs in Hawaii for persons with mental illnesses. The public and private sectors provided only basic day care treatment. Working with the Mental Health Association of Hawaii and The House, a private non-profit mental health care provider, the State sent several of its employees to receive training at Fountain House, a New York organization that specialized in assisting people with mental illness to develop the skills necessary to enter the workplace and earn wages, thus becoming productive members of society and increasing their self-esteem.
In 1981, the State partnered with The House to create a program in Hawaii similar to Fountain House called Network. The program’s emphasis in the early stages was to “graduate”; the participants from therapeutic simulated work situations to actual job placement.
In 1983, The House’s board of directors decided to make Network a separate corporation, based on the argument that The House’s primary goal – residential treatment of the mentally ill – was contrary to the goal of Network, which was to get people out of residential treatment into the workplace. Network became a separate entity in 1983 under the auspices of The House but with its own board of directors.
When Network incorporated in 1985 as Network Enterprises, Inc. (NEI), services were expanded to include not only people with mental illness but all types of persons with disabilities, including the developmentally disabled, substance abusers and dual diagnosis cases (e.g. mentally ill substance abusers). The company’s primary mission remained the same: to assist clients in building and enhancing self-esteem and self-confidence and to motivate them to obtain and maintain successful, competitive employment.
NEI began operating out of an office in the Kalihi Palama Health Center. In 1984, the company moved into its own offices at the Varsity Building on University Avenue. Subsequent moves were to the Halawa industrial area and the Ceridian Building in Mapunapuna. The Administrative Office was located at Airport Industrial Park. Today, NEI’s Employment Division and Administrative Office merge under one roof at Dillingham Plaza (1505 Dillingham Blvd. Ste. 303, Honolulu, HI 96817).
NEI was successful from the outset, winning several national awards and expanding to receive major contracts. In 1984, NEI created a maintenance division for the purpose of providing in-house employment and training opportunities for its clients. This enabled NEI clients to gain valuable real work experience and be paid for it, increasing the chances for a successful transition to competitive employment status.
In 1985, the State awarded the company a $370,000 contract to build fences for a minimum security prison facility in Waiawa. When the facility opened, NEI was awarded the catering contract. In 1986, NEI’s maintenance division evolved into construction and began receiving major contracts for work at the Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe. Other construction projects included work at Leahi Hospital, Hilo Counseling Center, Diamond Head Mental Health Center, Palolo Housing, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and trail building and firebreak clearing on Oahu and the Big Island.
In 1987, the State’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation asked NEI to help with job placement on the Neighbor Islands. NEI began expanding its services again – first to Kauai, then to Maui and the Big Island. DVR eliminated the job placement program in April 2018.
In 1988, the State asked NEI to take over operation of the 22-acre Malaekahana Beach Park. The company managed the park, renovating and maintaining its rental cabins, for seven years.
In the mid-1990s, the company expanded its target population again, this time to include socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. NEI also began to supplement its State contracts with federal grants and programs – including NISH, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating employment opportunities for people with severe disabilities.
In 1995, NEI contracted with Maui County to design and construct an affordable housing project at Makawao Highlands, consisting of 22 single-family homes. The Makawao Highlands Project received national recognition for NEI in the form of a Best Practices Award from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a Project of the Month award from the Associated Builders and Contractors, and personal acknowledgement from the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In 2000, the company received a federal grant to help Hawaii defray the cost of reintegrating homeless, jobless veterans on Oahu. Although veterans represented only 10 percent of the total population, they make up 35 percent of Oahu’s approximately 8,000 homeless people. The Homeless Veterans Reintegration Project, administered by the Federal Department of Labor, awarded NEI $233,770 annually in a two-year grant to conduct a program involving outreach, assessment, job development, job placement and location into permanent housing of Oahu homeless veterans.
In 2002, NEI received an exemplary service provider award from the Labor Department in recognition of its outstanding work in the program. The grant was recently renewed for $293,000 to June 30, 2012.
In 2007, NEI increased services to low-income persons through a contract with the State Office of Community Services.
In 2009, services for persons with severe disabilities were expanded through a contract with the Social Security Administration.
In 2013, services for people with severe disabilities were expanded through a contract with Vocational Rehabilitation for the vocation and work adjustment training services (VWATS) where NEI provides classroom training and paid work experience at various employment sites and locations to eligible individuals referred by DVR.
In 2015, NEI increased services for custodial at JBPHH Pearl Harbor shipyard to create employment opportunities for people with severe disabilities.
In 2017, NEI increased services for custodial staff at the Department of Hawaiian Homeland (DHHL) Office in Kapolei to create employment opportunities for people with severe disabilities.
In 2017, NEI increased services for ground maintenance with the Department of Hawaiian Homeland (DHHL) in various locations on the island of Oahu to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
In 2018, VR expanded the VWATS contract and added a program called Summer Youth Employment Program-VWATS to offer project-based employment skills training and paid work experience. NEI provides classroom training, which is required for the students to be able to participate in the eight (8) weeks paid work experience for the summer.
Today, NEI has 60 employees and offers a seamless continuum of vocational rehabilitation services including outreach, assessment, orientation, intake, vocational evaluation, vocational counseling, skills training, job development, follow-up and support services.
In January 2021, NEi move into a new office at 615 Pi’ikoi Street Suite 1105 Honolulu, HI 96814. Our offices are on Pi’ikoi Street in-between Kapiolani Boulevard and Makaloa Street across from Inspiration Furniture.