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Puerto Ricans want governor to resign after Hurricane Maria supplies found in warehouse

Demostrators call on Puerto Rico governor to resign

(CNN) — Puerto Ricans poured into the streets of San Juan on Monday calling for the resignation of Gov. Wanda Vázquez.

The protests come days after Hurricane Maria supplies were found in a warehouse over the weekend in the city of Ponce, on Puerto Rico’s southern coast. They included numerous pallets of water and other boxes with emergency supplies. The discovery took place as the US territory struggles with tremors and aftershocks from a December earthquake.

Protesters were seen Monday banging pots outside the governor’s mansion in San Juan.

Vázquez took to Twitter hoping to quell the outrage among citizens.

“I respect the constitutional right of citizens to demonstrate,” she said. “There is no need for the use of the shock force at this time.”

The protests were reminiscent of what took place in Puerto Rico last summer when protesters filled the street demanding the resignation of then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who resigned in August.

Warehouse supplies distributed Monday

Officials in Puerto Rico began distributing the Hurricane Maria supplies Monday, according to Maj. Gen. José J. Reyes, the adjutant general of the Puerto Rico National Guard.

The supplies were sent to the 18 municipalities included on the White House’s disaster declaration, Reyes said.

“Most of the water here and baby formula is outdated. There are cots, camping stoves, blue tarps,” Reyes said. “The expired items will be disposed of.”

While the supplies were reported to be from Hurricane Maria, Reyes could not confirm the purpose of the supplies, saying he did not want to speculate because there was no inventory for the items.

Puerto Rico will investigate mismanagement

Vázquez fired three officials within 24 hours of the supplies being found.

Carlos Acevedo, the director of Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management, was dismissed Saturday. Acevedo was replaced by Nino Correa, the governor said.

Sunday, Vázquez announced the dismissal of her secretary of family services, Glorimar Andújar, and secretary of housing, Fernando Gil-Enseñat.

Vázquez on Monday referred the investigation into the warehouse to the island’s Department of Justice.

Reyes said he does not know whether the items in the warehouse were originally intended for the victims of Hurricane Maria and was unaware the items were in the warehouse because he retired in December 2017, months after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island.

“The Puerto Rico Management Agency shouldn’t have had warehouses to store items,” Reyes said.

December’s earthquake has left more than 8,000 people living in outdoor shelters in the cities of Yauco, Peñuelas, Guánica, Guayanilla and Ponce. Some of those displaced are residents who are too afraid to return home for fear a wall or roof will collapse.

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Hamilton County’s ‘Wellness Unit’ part of nationwide effort to improve mental health among officers

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An initiative to improve employee well-being at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is among a spate of efforts across the nation to address mental health concerns among officers.

Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush announced the department’s new “Wellness Unit”  — devoted to the physical, mental and spiritual health of its deputies, correctional officers and civilian employees — Friday in a Facebook post.

“Our guys really care about the public,” he said Monday in an interview with News 8. “When you see somebody who’s injured or victimized, it really impacts us… We’re only human.”

The Wellness Unit launched in January with funding approved by county council members and commissioners.

Appointments are held off-site at undisclosed locations to protect the privacy of employees. Supervisors are not briefed on which employees seek counseling or what they discuss during sessions.

Information gathered during counseling sessions will not be used to demote or discipline employees, and will only be disclosed if required by law, including when somebody poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The department’s entire staff will receive training related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, critical incidents, addiction, mindfulness and officer wellness, the sheriff said.

Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.

Years of daily exposure to stress, trauma and tragedy can have other devastating consequences if appropriate coping skills are not developed, according to Susan Sherer-Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, certified alcoholism counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist involved in launching the Wellness Unit.

“Think of the hurricanes that come in, in Florida, and think of the palm trees where they bend,” she explained. “But then, what happens afterwards? They go back up. That’s called resilience. We want our officers to bend, not break.”

Until approximately 3 to 5 years ago, officers were often conditioned to “pull [themselves] up by the bootstraps and go to the next call” instead of addressing personal struggles, Sherer-Vincent said.

Cultivating resiliency can be difficult within a law enforcement culture that equates mental health challenges with “weakness,” she said.

“[Officers] are trained to have the warrior mentality,” Sherer-Vincent told News 8. “Truly, they would have been made fun of [in the past for seeking counseling].”

She compared strong, silent officers with underdeveloped coping skills to California’s famed redwood trees.

“They’re pretty sturdy. But what would happen if you took an ax and hit those every single day, day after day, for years? They would eventually fall,” she said.

Quakenbush credits his wife, church and non-law enforcement friends with providing “a really good support system.”

“But sometimes, you need a professional,” he said, urging employees to “talk through” negative emotions instead of turning to alcohol and other substances for temporary relief.

Several internal cases that resulted in disciplinary action during his year-long tenure as sheriff may have been prevented with wellness-focused intervention, Quakenbush said.

He was unable to comment on personnel matters. 

Sources within the department indicated some of the cases involved employees with substance abuse issues that had escalated over time, possibly as a result of work-related stress that had gone unaddressed. 

“I wouldn’t say that [disciplinary action] was happening often,” Quakenbush told News 8. “But seeing it happen and knowing that we probably could have done something about it made it impactful and something that we wanted to make a priority.”

Hamilton County announced its Wellness Unit days after New York City police officials revealed plans to hire a team of psychologists to combat a spike in officer suicides.

On Feb. 13, Indianapolis police officials said they planned to swear in the department’s first full-time therapy dog by the end of March.

  • FIND SUPPORT: Learn more about supporting law enforcement wellness on NAMI.org

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