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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Gov’t launches initiative to strengthen mental health in housing projects

Dr. Carlos Rodríguez Mateo, head of the Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration

By The Star Staff

As part of Suicide Prevention Month, the island Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration (ASSMCA by its Spanish initials), in partnership with the Public Housing Administration (AVP), announced the start of a community project to strengthen the mental health of residents of 320 public housing complexes throughout Puerto Rico.

As part of the central government administration’s public policy for addressing mental health on the island, ASSMCA will offer eight hours of training and tools to previously identified personnel, including community leaders, counselors, social workers and nurses, among others, who serve as support networks for families and individuals in public housing complexes.

The purpose of the initiative is to train the aforementioned individuals so that they can promote behaviors to strengthen mental health in their communities, and also can prevent, identify and manage a crisis, including suicide. According to the work plans, the goal is to certify at the end of the project at least 2,000 people as psychological first aid responders under ASSMCA’s Psychological Strengths and First Aid Module, as well as in the workshop titled “24 Character Strengths.”

The project, which began this month, will benefit the 10 regions of the AVP. To date, ASSMCA staff have already trained community leaders from 19 residential areas in the Mayagüez region and 26 located in the towns of Ponce, Peñuelas, Adjuntas, Jayuya and Guayanilla, which are part of the Ponce region. The workshops are taught on Fridays by ASSMCA human behavior professionals.

“Through this project we continue to promote public health policy focused on prevention and mental health care, guiding and bringing direct services to communities,” said ASSMCA Administrator Dr. Carlos Rodríguez Mateo. “It is a tool with which we seek that community leaders and the resources that communities have can identify depression in time, prevent a mental health emergency and know how to handle the situation and refer people for help in the ASSMCA. In the same way, tools are offered so that these people who are being certified, who are those who are in the community day by day, can promote strategies among the population that serve to strengthen their basic well-being, through positive and risk-free behaviors.” Through the First Responders in Psychological Aid program, just over 4,000 people have already been certified in Puerto Rico, including community leaders, members of faith-based organizations, chaplains and correctional officers, among others.

Among the goals of the project in public housing complexes is positioning more people to identify and refer at-risk citizens to the ASSMCA PAS Line, 9-8-8. The PAS Line is free and offers services confidentially.

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