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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Federal funding for child care program in ACUDEN to be repealed

By The Star Staff

In September, some $11 million in federal funds allocated to the “Child Care” program under the Administration for the Comprehensive Care and Development of Children (ACUDEN by its Spanish acronym) will no longer be available, impacting mental health services for the youth population in Puerto Rico.

The information came out during a hearing of the House of Representatives Southeast Region Development Committee held earlier this week to address House Resolution 204, a probe into projects and programs to meet the needs of children residing in Arroyo, Caguas, Cayey, Cidra, Guayama, Gurabo, Maunabo, Patillas and Yabucoa.

Yulissa Rivera Santiago, ACUDEN’s director of legal affairs, broke down the funding amounts allocated to the programs the agency manages, including the “Head Start/Early Head Start” and Child Care programs.

The consolidated total of funds that ACUDEN disbursed for the municipalities of the region was about $736,000 for Arroyo, about $1.2 million for Caguas, $7.2 million for Cayey, $1.1 million for Gurabo, almost $613,000 for Maunabo, $622,000 for Patillas, and $12.5 million for Yabucoa. Committee Chairman Luis “Narmito” Ortiz Lugo requested the data from Santa Isabel and Guayama since they were not available.

Consequently, Ortiz Lugo questioned the effectiveness of payments to the municipalities participating in the Child Care programs. However, the agency could not respond because that information was not part of the explanatory brief submitted by ACUDEN Administrator Roberto Carlos Pagán Santiago, who had been excused from the hearing.

ACUDEN revealed meanwhile that on Sept. 30 the $11 million allocated to the Child Care program will be lost, raising concerns from Ortiz Lugo and the Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration (ASSMCA).

“We understood that the project was going to continue, so without a doubt today we have to knock on the doors of other agencies to ensure that, perhaps it will not be $11 million, but that these services can continue,” said Juan Rivera Meléndez, assistant administrator of mental health prevention and promotion at ASSMCA, who also called the services “vital.”

The discontinuation of the Child Care program represents a challenge for the ASSMCA’s Division of Children, Youth and Their Families, whose specialized service centers impact children from age three to age 20, serving mental health cases and intensive outpatient programs, such as those for substance treatments, specialized trauma treatments and early intervention in psychosis.

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