Emergency plan would violate proposal, order - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Emergency plan would violate proposal, order

by Janjeera Hail

Guam - With a state of emergency declared just days ago, it appears the Rays of Hope facility in Tamuning may finally get the repairs it needs.  But for the students it's meant to serve, it appears hope is fading fast.

It was last December the Department of Mental Health received a $290,000 grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior to renovate the Rays of Hope Day Treatment Facility.  In mid-June, the 17 students being treated there were forced to move to the JFK Annex so that the Tamuning facility could undergo repairs. As the academic year began in August and the building continued to sit idle, the children were again forced to move, this time to Chalan Pago.

Now, as a court ordered December 15 deadline for repairs nears, former Rays of Hope teacher Deanne Quitugua says she's puzzled as to why a declaration of emergency has been issued to push the project forward. "As if it were sudden and unexpected, why DPW is now requesting for overtime to rush in there and make the changes and in the end result it will not be a school anymore but will be a step-down program for one or two of the clients," she said.

The plan is to have construction completed by mid-January, but not so the students can return as the DOI grant and Judge Linda Ingles have ordered. Instead, as Mental Health director Wilfred Aflague has told KUAM News it's going to become a step-down home. 

Meanwhile, Mental Health has indicated they'd like to see the students moved into public schools even though the Department of Education has stated that, beyond the educational component, they can't provide the same treatment. "DOE does not have the capacity to provide the psychologists and psychiatric care these kids need," he said.

Mental Health owns the Tamuning building.  They purchased it for $560,000 about six years ago.  But for now, this home in Chalan Pago, which Mental Health rents for $1,500 a month, will continue to serve as the day treatment facility. "When we have the heavy rains the kids can't go out for any kind of exercise or P.E. Sometimes they go to the community center but that's limited. Additionally, the busses have a difficult time coming up that rough road but it was our understanding at the time of the move that this would only be temporary," said Quitugua.

The capacity in Chalan Pago is fourteen, but before it was vacated, the Tamuning building served seventeen students. The number of individuals waiting to use the home as a step-down facility? Two.  

In 2002, Mental Health was awarded a highly competitive six-year, $9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That money was supposed to help develop a community-based, family-driven system of care to truly help provide better services for children on Guam with serious emotional disturbances.  Eight years later, that system is falling apart.

There's a paved road leading up to the Tamuning building. There's a fenced in yard, a covered carport for outdoor recreation, and more importantly the space that rays of hope needs to provide care to the people who need it.

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