FEMA awards $12M+ to the Instituto Psicopedagógico de Puerto Rico
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded nearly $12.4 million to the Instituto Psicopedagógico de Puerto Rico (IPPR) for permanent work to its structure due to damage from Hurricane María.
The organization, based in Bayamón, has offered services to youth, adults and seniors for nearly 75 years. The IPPR caters to participants diagnosed with intellectual disability, Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and other health conditions.
“The IPPR manages to address specific needs of a population that requires great care. Having strengthened facilities is crucial for their safety and to guarantee the quality of life of those participants. The agency is aware of the work that the institute performs, and we remain committed to supporting its repairs until the project is completed,” said Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José Baquero.
Beyond its residential services, the Instituto Psicopedagógico has a teaching center where independent living workshops serve 108 people. The facility has an emergency room with clinical staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Graduate nurses, a doctor, a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist are among the 122 employees who serve this population.
The organization’s executive director, Elba Castellanos, explained that the government provides disability services until age 21. That is when the IPPR steps in to assist individuals ranging in age from 22 to 91.
For Castellanos, one of the institute’s significant accomplishments is that the participants’ parents are at ease knowing their children receive the care they need.
“Additionally, by not giving them limits, our participants surprise us. The more independent they are, the better for their well-being and overall health,” she said.
Castellanos emphasized that it is important to preserve the IPPR because it is the only entity in Puerto Rico that provides consistent care and accommodation to its participants.
“If our facilities are not resilient, the lives of our participants are at risk. Many of them can’t move, some are bedridden, some can’t follow instructions. That is why this allocation from FEMA is so important, because we will be able to have the facilities the population with intellectual disabilities needs and the population deserves,” she added.
Fifteen of IPPR’s buildings and their exteriors deteriorated following Hurricane María. IPPR’s executive manager, Jorge García Ortiz, explained that the historic storm’s impact disrupted participants’ routines, even when staff made arrangements to protect and keep them stable.
The occupational therapy building collapsed, forcing the staff to relocate several patients because of the damage to the rest of the infrastructure.
Agency funds have already facilitated the replacement of various electrical equipment. Upcoming repairs include the construction of a new building, temporary relocation of some services to trailers, and comprehensive infrastructure improvements from roof replacements to enhanced lighting. Mitigation funds from the award will reinforce the structures against wind damage and waterproof them.
“FEMA funds are a historic step towards the reconstruction of our facilities. All the repairs will take into consideration the needs of the elderly population with intellectual disabilities,” García said. “Our goal is to protect them and provide service continuity, while the IPPR evolves in the services and environment it offers for their physical and emotional wellbeing.”
Castellanos welcomes those interested in supporting the IPPR, emphasizing that the institute appreciates both monetary contributions and volunteer efforts.
She also encouraged the public to follow the institute’s social media channels to learn about the activities it carries out.