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Puerto Rico gets $80M in mental health service funds

Tense situations experienced by Puerto Rico residents in the past few years have disrupted their emotional health, regardless of their age or social status, the head of the Mental Health and Addiction Services Administration (ASSMCA, in Spanish), Carlos Rodríguez-Mateo, said when describing the recent disasters that have affected the island. 

The agency administrator emphasized the importance of strengthened mental health for the island’s recovery from Hurricane Maria, earthquakes and other “collective crises,” as it will enable Puerto Ricans to function effectively in all aspects of their lives.

In keeping with a vision for a robust and resilient recovery, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) allocated nearly $76 million to ASSMCA for damage from Hurricane Maria at several of its facilities around the island, and nearly $4 million to address its recovery from the earthquakes that affected the southwestern part of the island in 2020. 

“This is one of the agencies whose demand for services increased considerably after Hurricane Maria, and it has been proven that it requires optimal facilities to be able to serve with attention and care,” said José G. Baquero, FEMA federal disaster recovery coordinator. “The agency’s funds will repair facilities in various regions; the goal is for ASSMCA’s staff to continue to be an instrument of support for all citizens.”

Funding under Hurricane Maria includes nearly $31 million for about 20 facilities where lead and asbestos problems have already been resolved. 

The structures include several recovery centers in Moca and Ponce; the Drug Courts in Arecibo, Ponce and San Juan; the Mental Health Center in Mayagüez; and prevention centers in Bayamón and Ponce. 

Among the pending works are the replacement of roofs, an elevator and cameras, as well as fire and security alarm systems. About $15 million in mitigation funds under the allocation are earmarked for voltage surge protectors, commercial steel exterior doors, sealing and roof drains, among other measures to mitigate damage from heavy rains and winds.

ASSMCA’s Bayamón location, one of the facilities that received the most funding, offers a range of services such as residential treatment clinics for minors and youth. Services include specialized care for children to develop bonds with their primary caregivers and families during their early years, as well as community outreach services providing psychological first aid to the community in response to emergencies and crises. In addition, support is provided to the homeless population.

Another $7.7 million will go to the toxicology laboratory and two ASSMCA residential facilities at the Río Piedras Medical Center, where care and clinical treatment are provided to adults with addiction problems or mental health issues.

To address damages caused by the 2020 earthquakes, ASSMCA has nearly $2.6 million for repairs to the dormitories, cafeteria, recreation area and medical treatment area at the Men’s Rehabilitation Center in Ponce. An additional $944,000 will cover ASSMCA’s amphitheater at the municipality.

Regarding ASSMCA’s projects under development, the executive director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), Manuel Laboy-Rivera, noted that “according to the Quarterly Progress Report from January to March 2023, this government agency has 91 permanent works with obligations nearing $75.7 million in the process of design acquisition and another eight projects with designs in progress to repair the damage caused by Hurricane María and the earthquakes.”

“Meanwhile, reconstruction work valued at $1.4 million is underway at the ASSMCA center in Fajardo. At COR3, we will continue to provide the technical assistance and the necessary resources for ASSMCA to complete this reconstruction work,” Laboy-Rivera said.

FEMA has already allocated more than $30.4 billion for nearly 10,700 projects under Hurricane María and over $895 million for about 800 projects to address damages caused by the 2020 earthquakes.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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