Sanctuary to close drug & alcohol program April 1
by Mindy Aguon
Guam - The organization was founded in November 1971 and has grown into one of the region's leading non-profit human service providers. After more than four decades, Sanctuary may be forced to close its doors leaving more than 250 adolescents without the very services they need.
"After March 31, we will not be accepting any new clients in our Drug & Alcohol Inpatient/Outpatient Program," explained executive director Millie Lujan. It's no April Fools joke - Sanctuary will close the program on April 1 because the money to provide the services has run out.
Lujan continued, "We have exhausted all measures and we can no longer continue footing the bill for the Government of Guam."
The region's only accredited facility that provides drug and alcohol treatment for adolescents has been filling the gaps in services because the government lacks both the resources and the expertise to provide the specialized services. Lujan says the cost has gone up over the years and the government hasn't committed to paying for the increased costs leaving the organization to seek alternative funding sources.
"We have had lunch plates. We have a car wash coming up. The staff went down in front of Bank of Hawaii to Fridays ago asking for donations with signs, save Sanctuary. The staff did it on their own because they realized their jobs and livelihoods are on the line," she detailed.
Lujan sent a letter to Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center director Rey Vega informing him that they will stop services effective April 1 unless the government comes up with a solution - one, it's worth noting, that Sanctuary has been trying to get for the last six months. Without $550,000 to keep them running through the end of the fiscal year, Lujan says closure of more services and layoffs are inevitable.
"The likelihood is we will probably have to release them. We can't do anything. We don't have the resources to continue operating," said Lujan. "What's going to happen to the kids? At this point I don't know. It's sad because we know that if we can work with those kids while they are young, we can more than likely prevent them from becoming lifelong users of abusers."
Director Vega has said that the government is working with the organization to find a solution. He has said the department cannot pay the invoices unless lawmakers appropriate additional funding to authorize it.