Management team gets first $2M payment - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Management team gets first $2M payment

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by Janjeera Hail

Guam - When a federal judge ordered the Government of Guam to fork over $15 million to implement a federal management team's plan of action for Mental Health, it was unclear if they'd even have enough for the first $2 million payment.  While the government has come through, there's still another $13 million that needs to be identified.

The federal management team's Dr. James Kiffer confirms that the first $2 million payment was received late Monday afternoon, just in time to meet today's deadline.  Judge Consuelo Marshal ordered the government to pay out $15 million over the course of the next year for the implementation of a plan of action, part of the government's amended permanent injunction that seeks to bring the Department of Mental Health and DISID into compliance with providing basic and adequate care for individuals with disabilities.

This, despite a letter from Senator-elect Aline Yamashita to Governor Felix Camacho last week requesting the government delay the first payment to allow for more community input. Dr. Kiffer says he'd like to sit down with Yamashita and discuss her concerns, but the department needs an infusion of funds to bring it up to par.

He said, "I do believe that mental health for the last 10, 20 years has been under funded. This is an attempt to bring it back to standards and meet the federal mandates that are present in the states and apply to Guam and that's what we'd like to do."

Dr. Kiffer says the federal management team also wants to meet with the transition team in the coming weeks.  There is no money in the current fiscal year budget for the next $2 million payment, which is due on January 3 - the same day Governor-elect Eddie Calvo is scheduled to be sworn-in. "To brief them on the plan and the importance of it. I think it is a priority in the government because of the court order, so I'm confident that they will meet the next payment," he added.

Meanwhile, the management team is now focusing on hiring.  There are more than 70 vacancies in both administrative and professional positions, and Dr. Kiffer says hiring locally is a top priority, noting, "I really think that this should be as much as possible local and so that goes with sustainability. If we know the people are here, they live here, they have family here, they'll stay here and this will keep going far past our tenure."

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