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Judge Marshall meets with Kiffer

by Nick Delgado

Guam - District Court Judge Consuelo Marshall met with Dr. James Kiffer of the federal management team today to get an update on the progress that's been made with the amended permanent injunction.  But there's been considerable criticism over the lack of progress that's been made.

While Dr. Kiffer claims work is being done to improve services for individuals with disabilities, those who sued the government over a decade ago say otherwise. 

"The reality is what this case is about is about providing services that are needed for people to be out in our community and when we don't provide those services they stay excluded from our community and they stay in a world that perhaps is not so pleasant," stated Attorney Dan Somerfleck. When he initially filed suit against the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities 11 years ago, he never imagined his clients would still be in the same situation today.

The case started with four clients who were being held in the Inpatient Unit at Mental Health and weren't given an opportunity for community-based placement and getting the proper services.

The case has been through three governors and has grown from the four plaintiffs to some 200 people to a target population of 1,700. Despite the court appointing a federal management team in March 2010, Somerfleck says the performance of the team has been considerably lacking and there hasn't been the progress that he has expected would come with the appointment of the FMT.

"The question has to be asked are we actually progressing and if they're not conducting multi-disciplinary treatment teams, and if these new ideas keep getting pushed back and pushed back then it raises concern," he noted. Somerfleck says there have been talks of plans with deadlines but most of those haven't pulled through. Additionally, he's expressed concerns that the FMT hasn't produced a single document reflecting and providing evidence of what they've done for an estimated $60,000 a month.

"It's a whole lot of money to be paying if we're not seeing actual progress. If we were to bring in the caliber of people that we suggested when we were talking about a receiver, I wouldn't be surprised if they charged $200 per hour each," he said.

And while the case continues to lag, Somerfleck contends his clients continue to be harmed - one passed away, one moved off-island to get the proper treatment, and the other two are still being serviced by Mental Health. "From my perspective, whether we call it a receiver or a management team, isn't really as important as getting someone in there who has the background, the experience, to pickup this ball and move it down the court," he shared.

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