From passive to active: resident moved to act - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

From passive to active: resident moved to act

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - This morning Alan Salas was watching from home, as the Legislative Committee on Appropriations held its budget oversight hearing with the Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities.  Dissatisfied with what he was hearing, he went from spectator to full-on participant.

"I apologize for the way I'm dressed," Salas announced.  "I turned on my TV and lo and behold there was the friendly panel of people who handles people with disabilities, and I said to myself I had to come down. I have to and submit this testimony."  Salas couldn't hold back his emotions, expressing his frustration with the services and programs at DISID.

Listening to agency heads present their budget this morning, prompted him to leave his apartment in Maite and make his way to the Legislature in nearby Hagatna to share his story and the story of many others who aren't getting the help they need from the agency.  "My case I submitted an IP plan did all the things that was needed and this is about maybe a year ago, or maybe a year and a half, and there are other peoples with other stories...there are people that are hurt, hurt! Because they cannot get it.  As for my case, I'm telling you now - I am receiving medications for the frustrations that I've had. This is too much," he said.

Visibly upset, Salas says he didn't want to shed a bad light on DISID or spread negativity, but it's a story he had to tell - including how clients are now forced to go to the Department of Mental Health to meet with counselors and social workers.  "Boy, do we love to go walking into there because it looks like an insane asylum.  It's great - throw the people with disabilities over there, shut them down," he professed.

Senator Ben Pangelinan, who presided over today's hearing, said he will be looking into this shifting of resources and funding that may be needed to ensure there's no loss of services at DISID.  "We're trying to see where we're at with regards to the funding that's begin given to Mental Health outside of their normal budget, that additional $5 million, and if we are going to fund that from a separate appropriation then we need to bring those resources back to DISID those counselors and social workers if we still have that community that's now not being serviced," he stated.

As for Salas, he and others within the disabled community are forming a group called CAN DO (Community Advocacy Network Disabilities Organization).  "We as a group are trying," he said. "We ask that you give us the dignity and respect when you're handling our cases."

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