COURT ORDERS GUAM PAYMENT FOR HEALTH AGENCIES

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Government must provide $1.5 million

By Dionesis Tamondong HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, March 9, 2010) - The government of Guam will comply with a federal court order and deposit US$1.5 million by tomorrow so a management team can start correcting deficiencies at two local agencies.

The US$1.5 million is part of the US$25 million the court-appointed management team said is needed to ensure the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and the Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities, provide services required by federal law.

District Judge Consuelo Marshall last week ordered a management team -- attorney James Casey and psychologist James Kiffer -- to take over sections of Mental Health and DISID after those agencies failed to comply with a longstanding court order to improve services and facilities.

GovGuam will tap about US$1 million from bond proceeds already meant for Mental Health and DISID, and about US$500,000 will be taken from those agencies’ current budget, said Bertha Duenas, Bureau of Budget and Management director.

"We’re going to take a look at how much each of them can afford without disrupting their needs," Duenas said. "If it will impact on their needs, we would still take it from their budgets, then toward the end of the fiscal year, I may take a look at shifting money from other agencies."

The fiscal team from the governor’s office still is trying to determine how to pay for the rest of the US$25 million. Duenas has said options include increasing real property and sin taxes, and repealing some tax exemptions.

The management team said correcting the problems at Mental Health and DISID, and ensuring they comply with the court order, could take 30 to 36 months.

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