Puerto Rico

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Supports Puerto Rico Mental Health Program

  • January 29, 2019
  • Emergency Response, Puerto Rico

Stamford, Conn. — Jan. 29, 2019The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has awarded Americares $800,000 to address the mental health needs of health workers in Puerto Rico recovering from Hurricane Maria.

The funds support the implementation and evaluation of Americares “Healing for Health Workers: Building Mental Health Capacity in Post-Maria Puerto Rico” program. The program helps health workers, social service providers and emergency responders build resiliency and capacity to address their own mental health needs as well as their patients’. Participants in the skills-building workshops learn strategies to help cope with stress and trauma, as well as how to identify signs of distress in patients.

“With support from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation we can meet our goal to train 5,000 health workers across the island to build their knowledge and teach self-care,” said Alexia Suarez, Americares mental health and psychosocial program manager in Puerto Rico. “We are caring for the caregivers who are survivors themselves.”

Health workers, social service providers and emergency responders provide critical support to storm survivors throughout the recovery process but may also be rebuilding their own lives. In addition to experiencing trauma themselves, caregivers in storm-damaged communities often serve high-need populations which have lower incomes, elevated health issues and difficulty accessing health care.

Since the September 2017 storm, Americares has trained more than 2,700 health workers and emergency responders in Puerto Rico through mental health workshops and delivered $40 million in aid for Hurricane Maria survivors in Puerto Rico and Dominica.

Americares responds to approximately 30 natural disasters and humanitarian crises worldwide each year, establishes long-term recovery projects and brings disaster preparedness programs to vulnerable communities. The organization has a long history of responding to emergencies including the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2014 Ebola outbreak and, most recently, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, Florence and Michael.