Puerto Rico: a safer haven

What’s better about Puerto Rico is its affinity for persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the country.

Its residents can go to 15 social security disability field offices, three disability adjudication and review offices, or to a disability determination service office if they have a disability benefit claim to make or a decision of the Social Security Administration (SSA) to hear about.

It has “health disability programs” such as the Puerto Rico Deaf-Blind Parents Association, Puerto Rico Department of Education’s Vocational Education for Students with Disabilities, Puerto Rico Department of Health’s Mental Retardation Program, Programs for People with Developmental Disabilities, Puerto Rico Developmental Disabilities Council, and Puerto Rico Vocational Rehabilitation Administration’s Rehab Center for the Blind.

There is also the Puerto Rico Department of Education’s Special Education that provides assistive technology services. Within it is the Special Education Advisory Committee, which advises the Secretary of Education on issues related to vision services for children and youth with disabilities; and the Parent Outreach Office, which guides parents on special education services.

The Puerto Rico Department of Health’s Diabetes Control and Prevention Program provides information on diabetes, the importance of weight reduction and physical activity, and smoking cessation on its website. The Puerto Rico Department of Health’s Division of Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health, Asthma Program is currently administering a project that could eventually lead to a state plan for an Asthma Monitoring System throughout the country. This state plan will cover seven areas: alliances, asthma surveillance system, promotion and education, public policy, environment, accessibility to health services, and evaluation.

Another division—the Puerto Rico Department of Health’s Division of Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health, Children with Special Health Care Needs Section—promotes, develops and implements strategies that contribute to the rehabilitation of the pediatric population (ages 0 to 21 years old) with  disabilities.

The Puerto Rico Governor’s Office for Elderly Affairs Services has six programs that provide support to people with disabilities themselves, their families, and their caregivers. These are the Senior Companion Program, Family Caregiver Support Program, State Health Insurance Assistance Program, Employment Promotion and Volunteer Services Program, Share-a-Grandparent Project, and PATH Transportation Service.

Giving psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation services is the Puerto Rico Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration. Imparting occupational counseling is the Puerto Rico Office of the Ombudsman for Persons with Disabilities.

The Puerto Rico University Center for Excellence on Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) offers community training and technical assistance particularly to those suffering from developmental disabilities. The Puerto Rico Vocational Rehabilitation Administration provides—as its name suggests—vocational rehabilitation services including  evaluation services, referrals, physical and mental restoration, work licenses, and rehabilitation technology, among others.

PWDs in Puerto Rico also have a “watchdog” overseeing them. This is the Protection and Advocacy agency (P&A) that provides free advocacy services on legal issues related to assistive technology, health care, special education and voting. It is also the one assigned to investigate reports of abuse or neglect on PWDs, serving as the island’s Client Assistance Program.

“There is a plan and a purpose, a value to every life, no matter what its location, age, gender or disability.” ~ Sharron Angle

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