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All hands on deck to bring DOC into compliance

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It's a before and after like no other: a makeover the Government of Guam can be proud of.

It was all hands on deck to bring the Department of Corrections into compliance with a federal court order to address dental, medical, and mental healthcare for the island's prisoners and to bring these outstanding issues up to national standards. It was just as the federal court ordered: plenty of TLC to address DOC's needs relative to providing adequate healthcare for the island's prisoners as prescribed by Senior District Judge Alex Munson back in January.

According to a compliance report filed at the federal court by DOC director Jose San Agustin on Wednesday, there's plenty of progress in areas of oral care, basic mental health services, nurse staffing, nursing assessments, sick call, initial health assessments, and seclusion and restraint.

Since the Guam Memorial Hospital assumed operations of the DOC clinic in June, they first addressed the most pressing of issues -  unseen sick calls. According to the report, over 70 of these sick calls were dental related. To catch up to the backlog of sick requests, Dr. Suzanne Kaneshiro, a licensed dentist from public health volunteered to assist. Along with responding to the sick calls, she trained DOC nurses to do oral screenings, medical histories, and patient oral hygiene education to inmates and detainees. It was also determined that doc would hire a dentist and two dental hygienists - positions which were included in DOC's Fiscal Year 2016 clinic health care budget.

When it comes to mental health care services, DOC has since hired clinical psychologist Dr. Patricia Taimanglo who partnered with a correctional mental health consulting expert to build a mental health program from scratch for DOC. They've also been working with the Department of Administration and the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center to recruit more mental health care staff.

Recruitment resulted in the hiring of Dr. Dane Beckford who assists with providing direct clinical services including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, treatment planning, psychiatric referrals, therapeutic treatment groups, and psychosocial and psycho-educational programming. These programs are intended to empower inmates and detainees to function more independently, responsibly, and with self-control.

And just as Judge Munson ordered, DOC now has grown its pool of nurses. Back in January, the prison only had four full-time nurses. Today, under the supervision of GMH nursing administrator Zennia Pecina, nursing services are now available from a pool of 29 full- and part-time registered nurses and licensed patrical nurses from GMH.

Thanks to multi-agency efforts, San Agustin concludes his report stating, "I am extremely proud of the progress made to date, especially in the areas of oral care and mental health. The clinic operations have been running smoothly since GMH has taken over operations, we are gaining momentum, and we will succeed."

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