BACKGROUND ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE IN PUERTO RICO
In 1959, Law No. 48 was passed and known as the Narcotics Law of Puerto Rico. This law regulated trafficking, possession, growing and cultivation of narcotic drugs and other substances. The Law also required measures such as: registration of those charged with substance abuse related crimes, judicial procedures and treatment. This law changed the judicial process whereas, cases before the courts in the State (Puerto Rico) could be processed locally and a person sentenced would serve his/her time in local prisons. Previously, drug related crimes were considered federal cases and sentences would be served under federal jurisdiction.
In 1959, the program of Mental Health of Puerto Rico was created and a sub-program for the treatment of people suffering from substance abuse became part of the outpatient clinic in the adult psychiatric Hospital in Rio Piedras. By 1961 the number of people with substance abuse problems had increased considerably, prompting the
creation of the Center for Addiction Research (C.I.S.L.A.) in the Hospital. This center was the first in P.R. to incorporate those in recovery from substance abuse (peers) as part of the treatment. For the first time, those suffering from substance abuse are considered a sick person and the focus became rehabilitation. The approach to
treatment and rehabilitation, even with the legal measures in place failed to mitigate the problem. Increased awareness in the community led to the creation of a handful of community based agencies and so began the formal pursuit of a solution. In 1968, Hogar CREA, Inc., (HC) is established and adopts the belief that those suffering from substance abuse is a sick person in need of re-education.
THE ORIGIN OF HOGAR CREA, INC. AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO TREATMENT FOR SUBSTANCE ABUSE IN ALL ITS MANIFESTATIONS
Puerto Rico is a major consumer of drugs. Throughout the 20th century, but especially during the decade of the sixties, the use and abuse of drugs was acute.
The extent of the problem is due to multiple factors, particular to the culture and socio economic times:
- The quality of life in Puerto Rico has undergone drastic changes; in the past 60 years we have gone from a primarily agricultural economy, rural housing and strong ties to extended family, to an industrial economy and urban life with the population concentrated in big cities and a concept of nuclear family. This change was aggravated by the “Great Depression” of the 1930’s.
- The economic depression set off a massive migration of Puerto Ricans to urban areas and States like New York. The cultural shock, racial discrimination and economic stress resulted in identity crisis and social disconnect. Many losing the land where they had lived for generations to live in unhealthy urban conditions impacting their families both physically and psychologically.
- Puerto Ricans enlisted or drafted in US conflicts and wars impacted Puerto Rican soldiers returning home with substance abuse problems.
These factors contributed to the social ills of Puerto Rican society at the time. We believe a great emotional vacuum developed among Puerto Ricans and violent crimes, divorce and alcohol consumption, increased dramatically in the country during these years. Puerto Ricans, without strong family support
and social structure opted for the use of drugs and alcohol, trying to escape the stresses of what life had become. HC believes the existence of basic institutions in society engaged in forging the development of the personality of young people must be acknowledged. These play an important role in the
educational process. The family, the school system, public or private agencies, Church and political and economic systems mold the scale of values that the human being is internalizing and serve as scaffolding to the personality. When these fail, together with the accelerated socio-economic changes taking place in our country, emerging problems of anti-social behavior such as delinquency, addiction; and assorted criminality increase.
Before 1960 the addict was not considered treatable, as there was no cure for his condition; rehabilitation was not an option. Which meant that working with addicts would be a failure, because there was no expectation of success. That was the concept that prevailed, resulting in that many professionals of human behavior would prefer not to treat those with substance abuse issues for many years. The stigma prevailed characterizing those suffering from substance abuse as an "addict" -- a criminal who should be in jail. Importance was given to the physical appearance, physical dependence and helping the person to break his physical defect. Resulting in a revolving door of relapses without treating the psychological aspects of the disease.
It was not until the 1960s that the addict is viewed as a sick person and alternative rehabilitation programs developed -- maintenance programs such as ASSMCA methadone program and other faith-based community groups. It is at this time that HC is incorporated - on May 20, 1968. Our movement was founded by a man Jose
Juan Garcia Rios, "Chejuan", who battled an addiction problem, was afforded the opportunity of rehabilitation and believed that those with substance abuse issues can be re-educated, and their illness treatable. HC's philosophy and Therapeutic Community Method has been validated for over four decades and the tens of thousands of lives saved, including the
executive leadership that is today at the helm of this passionate and committed grassroots organization.