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Future cloudy for Rays of Hope Home

by Michele Catahay

Guam - With students from the Rays of Hope Home attending summer school temporarily at the JFK Annex in Upper Tumon, the fate of the facility remains to be seen. The System of Care Council met this afternoon at the Superior Court of Guam to discuss issues surrounding the fate the Tamuning facility.

The Department of Mental Health has shut down the facility due to structural issues. While officials have said work is scheduled to begin soon, some question how long these problems will take to be repaired. Executive Director of Guam Legal Services Harold Parker said, "At this point, I'm bothered with the fact that there's no scope of work and no RFP. Most of us knew this stuff back in January."

Last week, Mental Health Deputy Director Elisabeth Cruz said funds have been earmarked to make repairs from the Department of the Interior. But according to Jacob Perez from the Department of Education's Special Education Division, it seems like nothing has been set in stone. 

He said, "This hasn't been on paper but they said they're making repairs, although hank and Dan brought up a good point that usually an RFP is issued to kind of get the ball rolling on that as far as outlining what those repairs are." Mental Health has said all repairs will be completed before the school year begins. For now, students have been situated at the JFK Annex until these issues are resolved.

Last week, Education Suruhanu Dominic Terlaje conducted an informal inspection of the facility.

Council Chairperson Richard Brown said, "I gathered because I got word on this already that he [Perez] did not find much wrong with the place the only thing that was disclosed by Ms. Cruz to Mr. Terlaje is that it isn't a school site, therefore it doesn't fall in under the 14 points they go by as far as a school setting."

Although a plan has been set temporarily, it's still unclear what's going to happen after that. Perez admits that it's highly unlikely that the Rays of Hope Home facility will be open before august. DISID Attorney Daniel Somerfleck says it's unclear how Mental Health and DOE will be able to transition the students back to their home schools just in case the facility is unable to open. He says students should be equipped with trained staff rather than just providing them with a one to one school aid and a teacher.

"I still remember that was what we did before we had Rays of Hope. We had really little islands inside of the schools. Is that the way we're going to address this issue? Because those were all daytime treatment kids," he said.

Mental Health Deputy Director Elisabeth Leon Guerrero and Clinical Administrator Annie Unpingco are currently off-island. In the meantime, the Council is expected to meet on July 12 to further discuss the issue.

During last week's confirmation hearing for Wilfred Aflague to serve as director of Mental Health, senators asked for a timeline of when the repairs would be completed for the rays of hope facility, Alfague said as soon as possible. No timeline could be given, because a scope of work and request for proposal hasn't been drafted yet.

Aflague said he was also going to ask for the governor's help to expedite the process and repairs.

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