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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Mental health agency launches community wellness project

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

By John McPhaul

With the aim of promoting the integral well being and quality of life of adults, youth and children in the island’s 78 municipalities, Carlos Rodríguez Mateo, who heads the Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration (ASSMCA by its Spanish acronym), announced Tuesday the start of the ASSMCA Visits Your Community project.

Through the initiative developed by the ASSMCA Auxiliary Administration for Prevention, human behavior coordinators and professionals will be visiting two municipalities monthly to provide direct mental health and anti-addiction services focused on prevention, crisis intervention and treatment to meet the particular needs of the residents of each community.

“ASSMCA Visits Your Community is an initiative that brings mental health prevention and treatment services directly to older adults, children and youth,” Rodríguez Mateo said. “It is a project that we have developed, in conjunction with the municipalities, focused on addressing needs previously identified in the communities through visits and studies by our staff and that otherwise would not receive attention due to ignorance, lack of support networks or access to services, among other reasons.”

Among the resources that citizens will have are talks and motivational dynamics, interactive games for children in schools, and training for members of the municipal police on the use of Naloxone to combat the impact of opioids.

To develop the project, the ASSMCA administrator established an executive committee in charge of exploring the most pressing needs in the communities and designing an individualized impact plan, which includes the participation of representatives of the municipalities and human behavior specialists. Last Friday, the municipality of Quebradillas was visited and upcoming visits will be in the towns of Orocovis on May 5 and Utuado on May 19.

Rodríguez Mateo noted that Puerto Rico is a diverse society made up of people with multiple needs and many areas of vulnerability which require prevention and attention to promote a better quality of life.

“The pandemic has been a challenge to the physical and mental health of everyone in Puerto Rico and around the world. This is in addition to other diseases, diagnoses and needs that some people were already experiencing before this unprecedented public health emergency,” he said. “ASSMCA Visits Your Community seeks to demolish myths about mental health and promote self-care and care for our families, friends and neighbors, in order to emerge from this emergency strengthened and with an integrated state of well being, particularly our older adults, who have been one of the most affected population groups.”

The project joins other initiatives that ASSMCA maintains in communities throughout Puerto Rico. The PAS Line, meanwhile, is an emotional support resource available confidentially 24/7 by calling 1-800-981-0023.

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