Guam -Last weekend’s murder and bloodshed in Tucson, Arizona left Committee on the Guam Military Buildup Chairperson Senator Judith P. Guthertz deeply concerned about the apparent lack of any plans to expand psychiatric care available to present or future military dependents living in Guam.
In her weekly column carried by the Marianas Variety Guam Edition, Senator Guthertz considered the crushing case load faced by the few qualified
psychiatrists practicing in Guam.
Dr. Kirk Bellis, the only civilian child psychiatrist practicing here, is seeing an additional one to three military dependents weekly and that’s before the buildup is fully underway. When the veteran’s community is considered, the lone psychiatrist at the new VA clinic has a caseload of about a thousand, though the goal is 500.
“That’s why it is truly horrifying that one aspect of the Guam military buildup just coming to light is that the military has made no provisions so far for expanding psychiatric care for present and future military dependents, placing this responsibility on the Guam private sector, which isn’t even prepared to handle the needs of the local community,” Senator Guthertz wrote.
Addressing her concerns to Assistant Secretary of the Navy Jackalyne Pfannenstiel who is to visit Guam next week, Senator Guthertz said:
“Over and over, I have pointed out that the Guam military buildup must not add burdens to Guam’s civilian community. The EIS recognized clearly that Guam is a medically underserved area and we have strong anecdotal evidence that our capacity to deal with mental health needs is woefully inadequate under present circumstances.”
Senator Guthertz said that military programs to screen personnel and dependents for mental illnesses should prevent bringing them to Guam if there is not appropriate treatment available. Alternatively, funding for such services through the civilian or military medical communities could help to resolve the problem.