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Registry for island's disabled proposed

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In times of emergency, first responders don't always have all the information when it comes to helping individuals with disabilities. But legislation has been introduced to change all that by creating a registry for individuals with disabilities.

"I think this is something that is badly needed," said Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities director Benny Servino, referring to bill 70 introduced by Senators Nerissa Underwood and Rory Respicio - a piece of legislation he fully supports. "Bill 70 is a bill that looks at establishing a registry for people with disabilities and it is intended to work in concert with the first responders, the law enforcement officers so they can have access to information data about people with disabilities in the community that provide them the opportunity to speak to them, communicate with them more affectively, provide the necessary services and support that is needed for them especially in areas and times of natural disaster," he said.

While he couldn't give an exact figure, Servino says about 10% of the population worldwide live with a disability. Under the proposed legislation, DISID would be the single point of entry to maintain the registry and provide the information to government agencies and departments that employ first responders. "And we want to protect the integrity of the information and ensure again we comply with HIPAA requirements and comply with our requirements as far as confidentiality of information," he said.

Bill 70 would appropriate $150,000 to be used solely for the creation and implementation of the registry. "With this new registry, it will help us collect the data and I think it's important that we collect this data not only for first responders and law enforcement officers, but also for our island when we look at grants, we have accurate data and accurate numbers, so we won't duplicate those numbers," he said.

Servino says while DISID provided initial feedback on the legislation, he plans to offer suggestions such as incentives for individuals with disabilities who sign up such community updates on events and discounts from businesses. "They may need certain types of communication styles, officers don't know if the individuals are deaf or have a mental health condition so they need to communicate with them very appropriately and affectively and not make any assumptions, and I think that's a critical need in the community," he said.

Servino says he plans to meet with the Guam Police Department, the Guam Fire Department and the Bureau of Information Technology to get more feedback on ways to implement the registry, should it pass. A public hearing on bill 70 is set for April 16 at 10am at the Guam Legislature Public Hearing Room.

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