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DOC healthcare issues heard at District Court

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - Day Two of fact finding continued at the District Court of Guam as health professionals took the stand to explain whether there is a crisis when it comes to access to care behind prison walls.

"Even though they're patients, they're also inmates," explained Dr. Patricia Taimanglo, a clinical psychologist at the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center.

During a status teleconference this morning with the Department of Justice on the line, Taimanglo along with GBHWC's psychiatrist Dr. Victor Perez took to the stand to describe how the agency has handled what they've observed to be an increase in referrals from the Department of Corrections in the last few months.

According to Dr. Taimanglo, she's observed four or more prisoners at the GBHWC daily. During her testimony, she noted that there's no segregation when prisoners come in need of mental health care. That means, prisoners as well as the corrections officers are left in the lobby - what she called a "big risk factor" as co-mingling with other consumers becomes an issue.

She also noted that the agency is not ideal for servicing prisoners because the agency lacks a forensic unit, doesn't do lockdowns, and lacks other forms of restraints.

Nonetheless, as the only public facility on island, Dr. Perez testified that "anybody who walks in that door has access to service."

Ultimately, both mental health specialists agreed that doc would benefit by having an onsite specialist - which they did, until three months ago.

Present at today's status hearing was clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Leitheiser. For the last four years she catered to DepCor's mental health needs but when her contract expired in February, she did not have her contract renewed.

Although US Assistant Attorney Mikel Schwab as well as Dr. Leitheiser's attorney Patrick Civille requested that she take the stand to testify, their request was opposed by Assistant Attorney General Donna Lawrence who called the potential testimony "self serving."

The court sustained the motion noting that already DepCor's medical director Dr. Raja Saad testified earlier this week.

As we reported on Wednesday, Dr. Saad admitted that since Dr. Leitheiser left DOC, he's been forced to refer any mental health related issues directly to GBHWC. This has resulted in the influx of prisoners at the Tamuning facility over  the last few months.

Last to take the stand today was Department of Public Health and Social Services TB program manager Cecilia Arciaga. Although Dr. Saad said there was TB crisis at the prison earlier this week, Arciaga says this is up for debate as it depends how you "define crisis." since Day One, Arciaga assures the court that Public Health has worked diligently with DepCor to conduct testings as well as treat the individual with the confirmed case of active TB as of today, she says the pre-trial detainee is no longer contagious.

As part of a Powerpoint presentation she made to the court, it became clear that TB is overall more prevalent in Guam than in other places highlighting that Guam has 3.6 times more cases than Hawaii and ten times more than the United States.

More testimony and closing arguments on the matter will be heard on Monday, June 2nd at 8:30 a.m.
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