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Closing arguments in DepCor case

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - Despite days of debate on what's really happening when it comes to access to healthcare at the prison, it appears all parties can agree on one thing.

"It's been thorough" said court monitor Bradley Klemm as he presented his closing arguments in federal court today.

Klemm is referring to three status hearings held over the last two weeks to get a better understanding of what's happening at the Department of Corrections relative to coming into compliance with a settlement agreement with the federal government back in 1991.

The agreement requires among other things that the territory of Guam develop a plan for the prison to provide adequate access to medical, mental, and dental healthcare.

As of today, Klemm admits access to care is "not the level it was" when the prison had clinical psychologist Dr. Andrea Leitheiser on staff. In February her contract expired, leaving prison medical director, Dr. Raja Saad to refer anyone in need of mental health care straight to the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center.

With the problems piling up at the prison, Klemm admits he fears Dr. Saad will call it quits if "they don't clean up their act."

Looking ahead, Klemm stated the last few status hearings were invaluable to moving forward because recent testimony does in fact show "doc appears to take serious steps to coming into compliance."

On the line to make his closing arguments was Department of Justice attorney Jeff Murray. Murray agreed that the recent status hearings and testimonies "make it clear problems with respect to access to care remain."

Murray suspects a lot of the progress between the feds and local government came to a stop when "communication stifled since December 2013 because GovGuam executed executive privilege."

Murray is referring to a binder which encloses operational recommendations compiled by Dr. Saad and Dr. Leitheiser at the request of director San Agustin. During recent status hearings, it became evident San Agustin instructed the doctors not to share the information within the binder, which was eventually accepted by the court as evidence under seal.

Last up for closing arguments was Assistant Attorney General Donna Lawrence on behalf of GovGuam where she assured the court that GovGuam is ready to move forward and will support Dr. Saad.

Lawrence stated GovGuam will be putting together a policy review team to assist with a plan to bring the government into compliance, while continuing aggressive efforts to recruit medical staff including a part-time doctor to assist Dr. Saad. In addition, GovGuam will invite US Department of Justice officials to Guam in the fall to see firsthand operations at DepCor. Following today's proceedings, Chief Judge Francis Tydingco Gatewood called for a status hearing on September 3rd. a joint report from all parties is also due on this date. 
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