Guam now qualified for FEMA crisis counseling funding

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Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center has seen an increase in the number of island residents contacting the crisis hotline.

During this pandemic, the health of individuals has come to the forefront as everyone is working together to reduce exposure to COVID-19.

But home isolation and quarantine coupled with financial instability can take a toll on a person. With this in mind, we can’t forget that staying healthy also means making sure you are mentally fit.

To do this, the federal government has created a counseling program that Guam may now qualify for.

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Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center has seen an increase in the number of island residents contacting the crisis hotline. Theresa Arriola is the department’s director.

“We have the data to show that since COVID-19 has reached our shores we have seen a major increase in crisis counseling needs. A lot of people calling the crisis hotline, the volume of crisis calls has tripled since March and so there’s a great need. There are a lot of anxieties, unknowns, and fear in the community and we are here to help,” Arriola said.

On Wednesday, 11 positive COVID-19 cases put Guam over the threshold required to receive federal funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is the authority over the Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program for COVID-19 pandemic-related disasters. President Donald Trump delegated authority on April 28 but at the time Guam was below the threshold to qualify for the funding.

‘Based on Guam’s population and the formula that FEMA had set forth, 150 was the threshold and at the time we were not nearly as close to 150. So really, I have just been watching the numbers and of course, it would have been better if we don’t meet the 150 threshold but now that we do, we are able to avail ourselves of this crisis counseling program funding,” Arriola said.

The program is jointly funded by FEMA and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration or SAMSHA.

To date, there have been 165 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Guam, surpassing the 150-case threshold.

Now that Guam has passed that threshold, the center is waiting for Guam Homeland Security to gain authorization from the Region 9 FEMA administrator.

Arriola says she hopes to have FEMA confirmation by next week so that GBHWC can move forward with the process of getting the funding.

“So we are just waiting and I just made a call this morning to inquire. They have not heard from FEMA yet, but FEMA has been very responsive to Guam. They expect to hear sooner than later, if not today then definitely by early next week,” Arriola said.

But even as the GBHWC center waits for approval, island residents need not wait.

If you are feeling depressed or just need a shoulder to cry on, Arriola says that the Crisis Hotline is available and open 24/7. No one will be turned away. The number for the crisis hotline is 647-8833.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.