Fire Response Sparks Preparedness

When Damon Taugher, Direct Relief’s Director of Domestic Initiatives, delivered a presentation to the National Association of Community Health Centers’ (NACHC) annual Policy & Issues Forum in Washington, D.C. this past March, he had two purposes.

The first was to discuss Direct Relief’s response to the wildfires that burned throughout California in late 2007. Along with colleagues from the California Primary Care Association and Mountain Health and Community Services in San Diego County – a clinic that became a shelter and a staging point for various emergency services during the wildfires – he covered the benefits of partnerships that helped Direct Relief deliver medicine, medical supplies, and financial assistance to clinics and shelters during the weeks-long evacuation period.

Those partnerships also enabled rapid financial assistance ($565,000 thus far) to help clinics quickly recoup significant financial losses as they suffered from fire damage, increased patient loads, site closures, and lost revenue.

But Taugher wasn’t there just to talk about past performance. As he sees it, the same principles and systems used to connect Direct Relief and other groups to the Golden State’s network of NACHC members could also be used to create a template for regionally appropriate emergency preparedness and response nationwide.

“Creating strong relationships prior to disasters is crucial for efficient coordination in post-disaster situations,” said Taugher. “These partnerships allow for critical resources to reach people most often at risk.”

Partnering with NACHC gives Direct Relief access to the largest association of nonprofit health centers in the United States. Between its 7,000 health centers and clinics, NACHC members provide services to roughly 16 million patients a year, approximately 41 percent of whom are uninsured.

This broad reach, especially among uninsured Americans, is also a critical benefit for the partnership’s other aim: getting medicines and supplies into the hands of nonprofit health centers and clinics that treat patients without healthcare coverage. Working with NACHC, its state-level counterpart associations, and individual clinics, Direct Relief has delivered $140 million in medicines for working-poor, uninsured patients nationwide since 2004

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