November 21, 2022- New Jersey: The Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA), has unveiled plans to partner with Arc Mercer-a leading health provider in the United States for the construction of a multi-million dollar mental health facility in Liberia.
Over 400,000 people with some form of mental disorders and about 130,000 suffer from severe mental illnesses in Liberia, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a 2019 World Health Organization report said. Less than one percent of Liberians have access to mental health services.
Established in 1950, Arc Mercer is one of America’s leading mental health providers stationed in New Jersey, and service a population of over 1,0000 consumers. Committed to securing all people with developmental disabilities have opportunities to chose and realize their goals, the Arc over the years has remained dedicated to reducing incidence and limiting consequences of developmental disabilities through prevention, education, and advocacy.
Speaking Friday, November 18, 2022 at the honoring and fundraiser, ULAA National President, Hon. Shiwoh Kamara said the move wasn’t only laudable, but was also historic. “This is a historic ground-breaking initiative to witness the construction and future operation of the ever-first modern multi-million dollar mental facility for people with disabilities in Liberia.” Kamara said. “Liberia currently lacks modern mental health facilities especially after 15 years of civil crisis. That is why, we at ULAA don’t take this project lightly.”
Kamara said the project coincides with ULAA’s Liberian Diaspora Initiative Funds (LDIF), which among other things, seeks to improve the lives of Liberians living in poverty. Running parallel to LDIF’s goals and objectives, Hon. Kamara said in the coming months, ULAA will lead the way to ensure that said facility is established.
He named legal, administrative, technical and clinical cooperation, as areas of partnership with the Arc Mercer. “We are committed to ensuring that this project succeeds in Liberia, and we stand ready to partner with the Arc Mercer towards this front.”
Hon. Kamara also paid recognition to Mr. Anthony Kpayea, President of the Liberian Community Association of Central New Jersey and the Metropolitan Areas (LCANJMA), for his exemplary leadership and relationship with the Arc Mercer. “Had it not been for Mr. Kpayea and all Liberians in New Jersey, this initiative couldn’t have gotten off the ground,” he stressed. “We want to thank the incredible efforts of the leadership of Central New Jersey for helping source this historic project for our people.”
Echoing the gains the project would generate, ULAA head said the partnership project would provide thousands of job opportunities, as well as, create a sustained advocacy program towards mental health reduction and prevention in Liberia.
Speaking also, the Chief Executive Officer of the Arc Mercer, Mr. Steven Cook, said Liberia was selected due to its deep historical ties with the United States, as well as the incredible, excellent and professional services being offer by Liberian employees at the Arc. He noted that the non-profit, which has provided resources for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for over 70 years, was poised to deliver on its commitment, and called on ULAA and all Liberians to embrace and support the project.
Lauding the efforts of the Liberia Community Association of Central New Jersey and the Metropolitan Areas (LCANJMA) and ULAA, the Arc executive director said Liberians make up the largest population at the Mercer Arc center followed by, Nigerians, the Latin Community, and Haitians. Code name, project 601, introduced on July 26, Liberian Independence Day. The center when constructed, will provide advocacy and actual services utilizing the Arc Mercer staff to train and mentor counterparts in the Republic of Liberia.
Expansion plans for Nigeria and Haiti are on the horizon with code name 602, he added. While in Liberia, the program will demonstrate the capacity enhancement that would offer Liberian visa recipients to travel to the United States and provide a clear path towards building the capacity of individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities (IDD) over a period of four years.
While in the United States under year one, recipients will be trained as Direct Support Professionals- an introductory skills to support individuals with disabilities, while year two, behavioral direct support professional-enhanced skills to work with individuals who need greater support. As for year three and four, supervisor or manager, professional leadership and development among others. With official visit to Liberia slated in March 2023, the Arc executive said visa recipients while in the US, will partner with local groups and elected leaders in Trenton, including Mayor Reed Gusciora to develop programs befitting the West African State.
Recipients will receive temporary housing, transportation community integration, religious support, education, and income and opportunities, following which they will return home to work. The group is currently aiming to open a secretariat office in Liberia shortly, to understand rules and regulations in Liberia in relations to non-governmental organizations, develop relationship with government officials and academic institutions, as well as build understanding of political and cultural factors.
Friday’s event saw the company acknowledging and honoring employees who made the wheels turn with the rising star of the year award, employee of the year award, as well as the Dawn Caramosino team impact award. Outside of the employees, Mayor Jeff Martin of Hamilton County, New Jersey and Mayor Bert Steinmann of Ewing, and Mayor Reed Gusciora of Trenton received the Mayoral Champion Award.
Mr. Stephen Binda
Deputy Press Secretary
Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas (ULAA)