Health Department Deploys Team to Puerto Rico as Part of the City’s Ongoing Hurricane Response and Relief Efforts

Under leadership of First Deputy Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the Health Department will assist with disease prevention, epidemiological surveillance, environmental health assessment and mental health support

Two emergency managers from NYC Emergency Management and eight arborists from NYC Parks also dispatched

November 28, 2017 – As part of the City’s ongoing Hurricane Maria relief efforts, the Health Department today deployed First Deputy Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot and three public health experts to Puerto Rico. The Health Department team will join two emergency managers from the NYC Emergency Management Department and eight arborists from NYC Parks. After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico two months ago, New York City has made tremendous efforts to help with recovery. To date, the City has deployed 278 staff to provide a range of support – from setting up a supply distribution center, to conducting building inspections, to providing wellness checks, to food and water distribution. The Health Department team will provide assistance in the following areas:

  • Public Health Leadership: Senior-level guidance to determine the resource needs of the public health infrastructure.
  • Surveillance and epidemiology: Collecting data to plan acute and long-term public health responses.
  • Industrial Hygiene and Occupational Health: Assessment of occupational health services and the active monitoring of industrial hygiene concerns. 
  • Environmental Public Health: Protection from health hazards related to food, water, air quality, vectors and sheltering. 
  • Preventative Medical Services: Disease prevention, vaccinations and laboratory processing for responders and the public. 
  • Mental and Behavioral Health: Guidance, training, system-level coordination and emotional support, including self-care literature and Psychological First Aid (PFA) to help mitigate long-term mental health issues.

“Puerto Rico faces a long road to recovery from Hurricane Maria, and needs help to do this. We are committed to Mayor de Blasio’s promise to provide direct assistance to relief efforts in whatever way we can,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “I am proud to send highly-trained senior personnel to provide assistance in key aspects of disaster response and public health. New York City has the highest population of Puerto Ricans outside of the island; it is our duty to provide assistance to our fellow Americans during this difficult time.”

“We have a dedicated team of emergency managers in New York City determined to answer the call to support the hurricane relief efforts,” said NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito. “We’ve deployed more than sixty staff members to help with the efforts on the ground in Puerto Rico, and we continue to coordinate the operations of the service center in Harlem to support the individuals and families who are recovering from the devastation.”

“People who care for parks care for their communities. We at Parks leap at the chance to help neighbors in need,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP.  “Because New York City is home to the largest Puerto Rican community on the mainland, we know that Puerto Rico is part of our national community – and that’s why we are proud to join our sister agencies in lending a hand.”

“New York City is looking forward to working with public health leadership in Puerto Rico to rebuild the island’s capacity in disease prevention and response,” said First Deputy Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “We are proud of our dedicated team of volunteers who will provide critical technical guidance in assessing public health needs. We are confident we will be able to make a positive impact on the ground in the recovery and rebuilding efforts.”

“In the days after Hurricane Maria, New York City answered the call to help our fellow Boriquas living through the nightmare and devastation this disaster has caused on the island,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “It has been 69 days and the island is still in dire need of assistance and I’m proud that the Health Department will join other city personnel in Puerto Rico to continue in the relief efforts. I want to thank the Health Department and First Deputy Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot for their commitment and support to the Puerto Rican people in the hopes to provide them with some sense of normalcy.”

“The ever-open heart of One Brooklyn is reflected through Brooklynites like Dr. Barbot and all of our medical professionals who are providing critical support to Puerto Rico in their ongoing recovery from Hurricane Maria. I thank each and every one of our City workers who are on the ground, getting the island and its people back on their feet. Somos una familia,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.

"I want to thank Mayor de Blasio, Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett and NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito for further deploying critical public health and disaster response trained personnel to continue supporting the Hurricane Maria relief efforts," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "Two months have passed since this natural disaster devastated Puerto Rico and the reality is that the island’s road to recovery remains long and filled with challenges. I remain fully committed, as so many of our fellow New Yorkers, to continue working diligently to help the 3.5 million American citizens in Puerto Rico."

“While it has been over two months since Hurricane Maria struck, our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico are still desperately in need of assistance,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Health Committee. “New York and Puerto Rico have a special bond that endures through both good times and bad. We will continue to stand by their side until the recovery process is complete. I’d like to thank Health Commissioner Bassett, First Deputy Commissioner Barbot, and the team of volunteers dedicating themselves to the assistance of those in need.”

In addition to the relief response in Puerto Rico, last month, the City opened a service center to support individuals and families recovering from Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey. The center offers in-person support to connect individuals affected by the hurricanes to critical government services, including enrollment in health insurance, SNAP benefits and mental health assistance.  The center opened on October 19 at the Julia De Burgos Latino Cultural Center located at 1680 Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. Individuals planning to visit the service center can make an appointment by visiting nyc.gov or by calling 311. The City is also collecting cash donations for Hurricane Maria relief through the Mayor’s Fund.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Carolina Rodríguez, (347) 396-4177
PressOffice@health.nyc.gov