One year after Hurricanes Irma and Maria made landfall, recovery has progressed slowly and unevenly in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The territories’ health care systems continue to face capacity, infrastructure and financial challenges even as health needs have increased, especially in mental health, according to two new reports from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The reports, drawing upon interviews with government and health officials from both territories, public documents and data, and an online survey of 21 community health centers, find that providers in both territories have restored access to some services limited by hurricane damage, while other services remain closed.
Provider shortages in nursing, certain subspecialties and especially in mental health present challenges in both territories. More than seven in ten (71%) health centers reported an increase in the number of patients they served. Over eight in ten (86%) health centers reported an uptick in patients with depression and anxiety compared to before the hurricanes, and seven in ten reported that patients were more likely to have suicidal thoughts or attempts and alcohol or other substance use disorders.
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