Recovery Plan performance report details Public Health services funding
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A new medical facility, improved mental health services as well as expanded health services to villages and outer islands are some of the “Public Health” projects being allocated millions of dollars in funding under the territory’s more than $479 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.
This is according to the American Samoa Recovery Plan Performance Report for the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) 2021 Report released this week by the ASG ARPA Oversight Office, which summarized allocations for local projects, including a large budget for “Public Health” services.
The performance report, reiterated what local leaders had said about the coronavirus pandemic last year, and that is American Samoa’s limited public healthcare system was a challenge long before the threat of COVID-19. The report points out that the only hospital in the territory, with124 medical beds and only 10 ICU beds “was a significant factor to closing our borders since March 2020 as the first line of defense as the COVID-19 spread across the globe.”
“Utilizing the ARPA funds to strengthen our capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and future healthcare emergencies is the top priority for the use of ARPA funds,” the report said.
“Improving medical services to the outer islands and outer villages is a critical part of our plans to strengthen our response capabilities should COVID-19 reach our shores,” it says noting that planned improvements in community health centers will allow the outer islands and villages better access to healthcare services and better prepare the territory to address issues should the COVID-19 arrive in territorial shores.
“Lastly, a tragic consequence of our border closure saw a significant increase in teen and young adult suicides during 2020,” the report said. And the rise in criminal cases involving illegal methamphetamines and other illegal drugs during the border closure “highlighted a desperate need to address this growing problem in American Samoa.”
“Improving our mental health services in American Samoa is an important component in the overall health and wellness of the territory and is sorely lacking presently,” it says.
NEW MEDICAL FACILITY
The report shows that $300 million is allocated to capital improvements for a new medical facility and quarantine facility. Timeline for implementation of this project is 2-3 years.
It notes that keeping borders closed indefinitely is not the long-term solution and has created significant hardship for local residents as many have been unable to meet their medical needs in the territory.
“Investing into a new medical facility and increasing our basic response capacity will provide American Samoa with adequate response capabilities,” the report says. “Developing adequate quarantine facilities will allow American Samoa to reopen with the knowledge that the needed facilities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health emergency declaration protocols [are in place].”
The report doesn’t identify a possible site for a new medical facility, but the governor had said publicly that the current location of the Territorial Correctional Facility — which will be relocated to another site — has been identified so far for a new hospital.
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICE
“Addressing the increased need for mental health services and treatment has been exacerbated during the public health emergency and border closure,” according to the report, which shows that $24 million is allocated for mental health services and facilities, with a timeline for implementation of one-to-two years.
Services identified to be addressed with the funds, include mental health treatment, substance misuse treatment, other behavioral health services, hotlines, crisis intervention, overdose prevention, infectious disease prevention, and services or outreach to promote access to physical or behavioral health primary care and preventative medicine.
OUTER VILLAGES AND OUTER ISLANDS
“To improve access to basic healthcare services in the outer islands and outer villages,” the report shows that $20 million is allocated for this project, under “Other Public Health Services” with a timeline of one-to-two years for implementation.
It explained that investment in to the Department of Health Community Centers would allow for improved healthcare services in the Manu’a islands, Aunu’u island and the outer villages.
“Expanding these community center services strengthens American Samoa’s overall healthcare system,” the report said. And that includes “improving health community centers to facilitate mitigation and prevention efforts for COVID–19 vaccination programs; medical care; testing; contact tracing; support for isolation or quarantine and supports vulnerable populations to access medical or public health services.”
NON-PROFIT & ADULT CARE
Also under the Public Health allocation is $5 million for the Non-profit & Adult care facilities program project, under the category of “Prevention in Congregate Settings — Nursing Homes, Prisons/Jails, Dense Work Sites, Schools, etc.” Timeline for implementation is 3 months to 18 months.
The report explained that this project provides SLFRF funding for non-profit organizations that have seen a significant drop in donations and contributions to fund their humanitarian work.
And the funding is to provide enhancement to the only long-term adult health care facility in the territory. “These capital improvements including home repairs, weatherization, or other needs for the lone alternate health care facility will allow for improved care and preparedness to respond the COVID-19 pandemic,” it says.
The other two funding allocation projects cited under “Public Health” are the $10 million for the repatriation program and $5 million for the vaccination program. (See yesterday’s Samoa News edition for details).
Full details of the 27-page performance report posted on the ASG website (www.americansamoa.gov)