Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez, and HF Announce $2 million Fund to Strengthen Puerto Rico’s Federally Qualified Health Centers
Sunday, January 7, 2018 (San Juan, Puerto Rico) – Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez, in partnership with the Hispanic Federation and in conjunction with RCHN Community Health Foundation, today announced the launch of 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.
When tragedy struck on September 20, 2017, the sports, entertainment, and business worlds gathered to raise millions of dollars in support of relief for Puerto Rico. Today, in their next step, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez came to the island to make sure that the funds that were raised, and the efforts put forth, were and are being used effectively, and that results are being achieved.
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.
“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," said Jennifer Lopez.
"During the hurricane crisis, 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," said Alex Rodriguez.
"We want to thank these centers and recognize their workers, who went above and beyond, for their selfless efforts and for continuing to help rebuild Puerto Rico," said Lopez and Rodriguez in a joint statement, continuing: "We know that there’s so much left to accomplish, but want the residents of Puerto Rico to know that we haven’t stopped thinking of you, and we won’t stop fighting to help rebuild this wonderful island.”
The Puerto Rico Federally Qualified Health Centers Disaster Recovery Fund earmarks a $2 million dollar 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.
A report by the Geiger Gibson RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative at Milken Institute School of Public Health, released in November 2017, pointed to the grave healthcare challenges that impact Puerto Rico. Even before the storm, the island’s residents were nearly two times more likely than their fellow citizens on the mainland to report that they are in poor to fair health, and to report higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Residents are at risk for tropical diseases such as Zika.
In addition, Puerto Rico’s higher unemployment rate (nearly 10% across the island, but over 20% in certain towns) – in comparison to 4% in the 50 States and Washington DC – means that residents are much less likely to have employment based health insurance. With the poverty rate in Puerto Rico three times higher than the U.S. mainland (46% versus 15%), far more people are covered by public health programs.
Medicaid and federal grants are essential to the health centers and comprise more than 80% of the revenue for the island’s health centers. Yet unlike the 50 states and DC, annual federal funding for Medicaid is subject to a cap. Furthermore, the Community Health Center Fund, which represents 70% of federal health center grant funds, expired on September 30, 2017, and while a continuing resolution has provided short-term relief, legislation to restore it is still pending in Congress. Hurricane Maria has deepened these challenges, placing additional stress on the health care system.
“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. Hazardous environmental conditions, including a combination of standing and contaminated water and high temperatures, have dramatically increased the risk for communicable diseases and other illnesses. 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.
The additional $100,000 grant provided by RCHN Community Health Foundation to ASPPR will help the association provide enhanced training and technical assistance to the health centers so that they are able to withstand the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria and function effectively over the long term.
“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.”
“We receive this support with enthusiasm since we have worked tirelessly, but there is still much to do,” said Alicia Suárez Fajardo, executive director of the Puerto Rico Primary Care Association which groups all 20 federally qualified health centers on the Island. "Although the lack of electric power has been a great challenge, the 330 centers in Puerto Rico's primary care centers network have remained operational. A few hours after the hurricane hit, most centers were already open, including all 16 emergency rooms and pharmacy services. We are thankful for the solidarity and understanding towards the work of our centers and the commitment we have for the patients, employees and the island of Puerto Rico.”
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/
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About Hispanic Federation
The mission of the Hispanic Federation is to empower and advance the Hispanic community. The Hispanic Federation provides grants and services to a broad network of Latino non-profit agencies serving the most vulnerable members of the Hispanic community and advocates nationally with respect to the vital issues of education, health, immigration, economic empowerment, civic engagement and the environment.
For more information, please visit www.hispanicfederation.org
About Hispanic Federation Unidos Disaster Relief & Recovery Program to support Puerto Rico
Since Hurricane Maria hit the island on September 20th, Hispanic Federation has been in the forefront of efforts to assist Puerto Rico’s recovery. Its actions include:
•4 million pounds of water and food delivered across the island
•600,000 individuals provided with water filtration systems, medical support, meals, solar lamps, mosquito nets and other essentials supplies and services.
•Coordination of more than 24 relief aid flights to deliver medical supplies, emergency personnel, solar panels, and other essential supplies
•$7.5 million committed to support emergency relief and recovery projects
•$2.5 million dollar Amanece Fund, which partners with nonprofits in Puerto Rico which are supporting relief and long-term recovery efforts
For more information, please visit www.hispanicfederationunidos.org
About RCHN Community Health Foundation
The RCHN Community Health Foundation is a New-York based not-for-profit foundation established to support the national community health center movement through strategic investment, outreach, education, and cutting-edge health policy research. The only foundation in the U.S. dedicated solely to community health centers, RCHN CHF builds on a unique history and long-standing commitment to providing accessible, high-quality, community-based healthcare services for underserved and medically vulnerable populations.
For more information: www.rchnfoundation.org and www.chcchronicles.org