Unidos con Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez
Hurricane Maria changed virtually everything about Puerto Rico, including its health care system. Already suffering from a systematic lack of federal support, diminished numbers of medical personnel and deteriorating infrastructure, the island' public health system was profoundly damaged by the storm.
For Federally Qualified Health Centers, the challenge has been especially difficult. A network of 20 local health centers that provide quality, accessible and affordable healthcare to un- served and underserved communities at more than 90 locations, Puerto Rico's Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) care for an estimated 350,000 individuals, more than one in ten residents of Puerto Rico. Since Hurricane Maria impacted Puerto Rico over three months ago, community health centers have been at the front lines, serving a critical role as first responders to the humanitarian and public health crisis by helping residents to cope with urgent and emerging health care needs, working in precarious post-storm conditions with limited and uneven access to electricity, clean water, telephones and internet service.
That's why last month Hispanic Federation President José Calderón joined with Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez and the RCHN Community Health Foundation, to launch the Puerto Rico Federally Qualified Health Centers Disaster Recovery Fund, to help strengthen and expand the work of Puerto Rico's Federally Qualified Health Centers in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
For Lopez and Rodriguez, who responded immediately to the crisis on the island by raising millions of dollars in support of relief for Puerto Rico, supporting the Recovery Fund made sense.
"Puerto Rico's health centers are an inspiring example of community-driven organizations that are making a remarkable difference in improving and saving people's lives," Lopez said.
"During the hurricane crisis," said Rodriguez, "these centers served as a backbone for healthcare - they were the difference between life and death in remote areas where responders couldn't get through."
The Puerto Rico Federally Qualified Health Centers Disaster Recovery Fund earmarks a $2 million investment for capital and infrastructure repairs of Puerto Rico's 20 FQHCs. In addition, the RCHN Community Health Foundation (RCHN CHF), the only Foundation in the country devoted exclusively to supporting the work of community health centers, will commit an additional $100,000 to Asociación de Salud Primaria de Puerto Rico (ASPPR), the primary care association that supports and represents the island's health centers, for technical expertise and disaster response planning to ensure that the health centers are restored to full operation and resilient for the future.
"Puerto Rico's federally qualified health centers are the primary source of health care for low-income and vulnerable communities on the island," said José Calderón, President of Hispanic Federation. "However, even though most centers were open shortly after the hurricane passed, operations remain far from normal. Ensuring funding and resources for the island's community health centers is essential not only to ensure that vital health care capacity is maintained and strengthened, but to restore community economic and social well-being. We thank Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez for taking action and lending their support to strengthen the island's FQHCs and ensure the long-term recovery of the island's health care system."
As part of the FQHC's Disaster $2 Million Recovery Fund, each of Puerto Rico's federally qualified health centers will be eligible to receive $100,000 to be used for:
- Repair and renovation of health center facilities damaged by the recent hurricanes;
- Repair and/or replacement of damaged equipment essential to patient care;
- Reinforcements of infrastructure to improve connectivity, communications, and access to electrical power;
- Alterations needed to better secure facilities for long-term stability.
"Puerto Rico's community health centers, like their counterparts on the mainland, have long offered the high-quality health care that is needed on the island, and are important local economic engines," said RCHN Community Health Foundation President and CEO Feygele Jacobs. "Following the unprecedented devastation caused by the hurricanes, investment is needed to ensure that health centers are restored and resilient and we are grateful to Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez and the Hispanic Federation for their commitment and collaboration to support and strengthen them for the future."
The Puerto Rico Federally Qualified Health Centers Disaster Recovery Fund is being managed by the Hispanic Federation's "Unidos" Hurricane Disaster Relief & Recovery Program. For more information, the public can visit https://www.hispanicfederationunidos.org/fqhc/.