1 Year after Hurricane Maria, NJAMHAA Promotes Trauma Awareness for National Hispanic Heritage Month

October 15, 2018

MERCERVILLE, NJ - Slightly more than one year ago, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, resulting in significant loss of life and property, as well as severe trauma among the island's residents.

New Jersey residents assisted Puerto Rico by sending state troopers and relief supplies, and by accommodating families impacted by the hurricane in their communities. The majority of Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. mainland are concentrated in the New York Metropolitan Area, with New Jersey being home to the nation's third-largest Puerto Rican population. With so many people who have personal and familial connections to the destruction of Hurricane Maria, the state's Puerto Rican community over the past year has placed crucial focus on the havoc a traumatic event can wreak on an individual's health.

The New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc. (NJAMHAA) is a trade association representing New Jersey community-based providers of behavioral healthcare services, which can be found in every county statewide and annually serve 500,000 individuals of all backgrounds. New Jersey's behavioral health community has always been an important voice in advocating for access to mental health services for people who experience traumatic events.

"Our member providers are located in communities all over the state, and in many areas with high concentrations of Puerto Rican and Hispanic residents. The clinicians who serve these populations themselves are trained in multicultural competency, and many provide services in English and Spanish. Our members are committed to providing trauma-informed care and recovery services to all people who are struggling with mental illnesses or substance use disorders, and have all been highly concerned about the impact of post-Hurricane Maria trauma on our state's Puerto Rican population," said Debra L. Wentz, Ph.D., President and CEO of NJAMHAA.

The one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria coincides with the annual National Hispanic Heritage Month observance, taking place September 15th to October 15th, which recognizes the historic and present contributions of the Hispanic populations to the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Puerto Rican people make up the second-largest subcategory of the overall Hispanic population by origin-slightly more than 9%.

NJAMHAA works to advance behavioral health awareness for Puerto Rican and Hispanic residents, as well as to bridge gaps in the delivery of essential services. Multicultural issues are always a salient subject of critical discussion at NJAMHAA's meetings and conferences. Additionally, NJAMHAA's charitable subsidiary, the New Jersey Mental Health Institute (NJMHI), has conducted extensive research and reported on improving mental health outcomes for the Hispanic population through its nationally and internationally recognized project, Changing Minds, Advancing Mental Health for Hispanics.

Beyond the mass trauma that the Puerto Rican community has been dealing with, America's overall Hispanic population is continuing to cope with the anxiety of an increasingly racialized political rhetoric and uncertain future prospects for undocumented people, including potential family separations. While young Hispanics have the highest rates of depression of any ethnic group, they continue to encounter multiple barriers, including cultural and linguistic differences, in accessing healthcare services. For instance, nearly a quarter of Hispanics in New Jersey have no health insurance. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of Minority Health provides informational resources on health disparities, and tips to help individuals navigate the healthcare system and obtain services, at their website at www.cms.gov/About-CMS/Agency-Information/OMH/index.html.

Through the work of NJAMHAA-affiliated groups and agencies, Puerto Rican and Hispanic people living in New Jersey have increased access to life-saving trauma-informed behavioral healthcare services that enable their families and communities to achieve meaningful recovery. As the rebuilding of Puerto Rico continues, NJAMHAA calls on state, federal, and nonprofit stakeholders to work toward expanding access to behavioral health services, and especially to care that addresses the impact of trauma on mental and overall health.

Powered by EggZack.com