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Update sought on compliance with court order

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - In hopes to see what progress has been made and what challenges remain in providing care and treatment to individuals with disabilities, lawmakers held an informational briefing with representatives from the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse this morning. The briefing comes at a time when the government of Guam has requested a third delay in the court ordered payments for the permanent injunction.

With a court case that's lagged for more than a decade, lawmakers like Senator Aline Yamashita had hoped to get concrete answers about how Mental Health and the federal management team is making strides in implementing a plan of action and providing care to those in the community who need it the most. Mental Health Director Wilfred Aflague admitted that the department has had difficulty in finalizing contracts with many service providers that are providing the very services the government can't.

Aflague said, "We don't have a contract with Latte. We've been going for the last five years the department on a court order by Judge Maraman," to which the senator replied, "When I hear that Latte hasn't had a contract for five years. What are we doing?  This is local. This is sustainability. An accredited program and I just hope that we are able to understand what the issues are and resolve them. Whatever the inconsistencies are I really think six years is a really long time for a service that fortunately they haven't shut down and gone away."

Aflague assured lawmakers and stakeholders that contracts would be in place by next month to ensure the continuation of services. Federal management team's Dr. James Kiffer says efforts to recruit the necessary clinical personnel have started back up since May when a trustee was appointed and the money collected from the government was deposited into a special account. He noted, "Now that the funds are available, that was a little more than a month ago about six weeks ago, we are now in the process of developing the RFPs again, drafting the RFPs for the activities that we need, we're actively recruiting. That's where a lot of these psychiatrists came from."

Kiffer estimated that the account has more than $7.7 million in it - a substantial amount to ensure the plan of action proceeds. It's that money in the bank that has the Calvo Administration asking the court for a third delay in monthly mandated payments to the court. A $3.2 million payment is scheduled to be made on August 1, but GovGuam has asked the court to modify the payment schedule by pushing the current schedule back 90 days or reducing the amounts owed. 

It's a request that the federal management team does not oppose. According to the motion, GovGuam states that it is financially unable to make the August 1 payment without cutting government services and personnel.

Judge Consuelo Marshall has yet to rule on the request.

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