GovGuam hopes for another chance to care for island's disabled - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

GovGuam hopes for another chance to care for island's disabled

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by Mindy Aguon

The Department of Mental Health and the Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities have struggled for decades to provide adequate treatment and care for individuals with disabilities in our community.  While some have called for the federal court to impose receivership, the Government of Guam is hopeful they'll be given yet another chance to get on track.

"At this point there does not seem to be a solution to the permanent injunction unless someone else is put in charge," said Attorney Daniel Sommerfleck.  For the last eight years, he's watched as GovGuam has made promise after promise, deadline after deadline, and plan after plan on how they intended to comply with a permanent injunction.  "In the process since that granting of the permanent injunction, they've been pretty much not successful in producing such a plan," he added.

Late Friday afternoon Sommerfleck filed a motion with the District Court, asking for Judge Consuelo Marshall to impose receivership.  It's something Mental Health director Dr. David Shimizu doesn't think is necessary, saying the agency is in a cycle of improvement.  "He's (Sommerfleck) entitled to do that, of course, so we are submitting in our status report to show the judge that all the orders that she's given us we're doing our due diligence to comply with it," she explained.

Mental Health director Dr. David Shimizu added that despite the challenges, they have been able to hire some individuals and even open a children's ward.  He told KUAM News, "The department is getting stronger, we do have our issues however we've been able to recruit three psychiatrists, medical doctors, very difficult."

Sommerfleck said, "Those are strides, but if I hire 20 people and I don't have those 20 people doing anything or maximizing their abilities and producing product, then really is that a success or is that hiring more employees?"

As for recent concerns raised about one doctor not having a license and another allegedly writing prescriptions with another doctor's prescription pad, Sommerfleck said, "And to me these issues more reflect on management than the individuals. At what point does management allow a doctor who's not licensed to practice on the ward? At what point does management not make sure they can meet the needs of consumers when their doctors go off-island?"

Governor Felix Camacho meanwhile is opposed to receivership, saying he understands the departments face serious challenges.  He stated, "The challenges are of course in the need for personnel, the need to adhere to timelines, the need for resources and in a very litigious and contentious situation with daily threats and weekly threats by attorneys against the government, it is hard to get people to come and serve."

"Looking forward we just have to do the very best we can, we are spending a tremendous amount of resources in court defending, legal fees and the like that could be spent elsewhere, but it is what it is," said Camacho.

A status conference is scheduled with Judge Marshall on October 22.

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