Gubernatorial teams offer their thoughts on disability issues
This past Monday at the Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium was a Gubernatorial Forum focusing on disabilities – an event that was open to the public to discuss issues like health, special education, Social Security benefits, employment, and an inclusive community in the territory. It was sponsored by the Developmental Disabilities Network.
All three gubernatorial teams were present: incumbents Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga and Lt. Gov Lemanu Peleti Mauga, Faoa Aitofele Sunia and Rep. Larry Sanitoa, and Tuika Tuika and Salanoa Iuni Maeva Saveena.
Each team was given an equal chance to speak and reflect on how they would support and what they would do to help with the disability support system in American Samoa/
First to respond was Tuika, who said, “Life is the most important thing to us, second is education, so we have to look into available services, available funding, and then discuss this issue with the government and private sector on how they can provide services – we have to address these situations before we can give you a direct answer on what we can do to help.”
From his own experience, Tuika said, “We have one child that was in the hospital for 20 years, and she was receiving funding from the federal program – she would receive a check of over $1,000 every month, they even provided a machine for analysis, and ALS she was provided medicine.”
He added, “My daughter will be here on the fourth, and hopefully she will be able to get on TV and explain this program – as we all know that there are a lot of people on dialysis and people on the waiting list.”
Faoa Aitofele Sunia
Faoa said, “Children with special needs should have access to qualified specialists who can provide proper diagnosis, develop a comprehensive and individual education plan, and engage with key partners in providing services.” He said, “More important than valuing the individual and education plan is actually implementing the action staff.”
Faoa noted that “following through and making sure that all the services are interconnected, learning manipulative and innovative technology – be given basic supplies such as wheel chairs, and so forth – devices are very important to the learning experience.”
Furthermore, he added, “The government is responsible for providing its people quality health care and better education.”
Closing off his remarks, Faoa said it was “important not only to give the individual a sense of purpose and belonging, self reliance and independence is paramount when you have special needs – we want to focus on our abilities and not our disabilities.”
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga
Governor Lolo during his remarks said, “To begin I would like to say that the most important part that will come out of this forum, it to provide us with new directions, as to how we approach, serving our population with special needs – I know that there have been a lot of complaints from parents and I do believe that those complaints are valid and of concern.”
Lolo said, “So the best hope that we can hope for with this forum, is not to wait until these problems come into play, but serving this portion of our population is very critical and is very important – I hope after today’s session, we’ll all be able to come together, and find new ways, new solutions as to how we can deal properly, with serving the special needs of our special population.”