Next Wave of Emergency Aid Sent to Gulf Coast Health Centers

On Monday, Direct Relief International expanded hurricane aid with eight additional emergency consignments of medicines and supplies to Gulf State safety-net clinics serving displaced residents. Monday’s activities, conducted with free logistics and transport support by FedEx, bring the total number of emergency shipments to Texas and Louisiana facilities to 22, valued at almost $450,000 (wholesale).

With widespread power outages and residents encouraged to stay in shelters due to extreme flooding and other damage, health centers in Louisiana and Texas are working around significant challenges following the two hurricanes. Direct Relief’s emergency response team expects to send several more shipments of specifically requested critical medical aid this week.

Health centers are treating evacuees for chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, and hypertension. Clinicians are also seeing a notable increase in patients being treated for mental health issues, understandable in the face of great personal loss.

According to U.S. Census data released August 2008, 24.4 percent of people in Texas are uninsured—the highest percentage in the U.S. Health centers and community clinics serve this vulnerable population, and are a key resource in emergency response.

Two members of Direct Relief’s Domestic Programs staff are visiting Gulf State clinics this week to help assess needs and coordinate response efforts along with the Texas Association of Community Health Centers. Direct Relief is licensed by the Texas Department of State Health Services as a “Wholesale Distributor of Prescription Drugs,” which means it can provide safety-net clinics with needed resources in emergencies and on an ongoing basis.

Direct Relief partners in the region have weathered the storms to varying degrees. Clinic director Clark Moore of Ubi Caritas in Beaumont, Texas, had to evacuate to Austin during Ike, and returned to assess damage yesterday. “Other than the drugs we have lost, we are OK,” Moore reported. “Our new clinic, which was built to with stand 150 mph winds, actually did.” Ubi Caritas plans to reopen this coming Monday, though, like much of the state, it is currently without power or sewer services.

“We have 5,000 to 6,000 Hurricane Ike folks from Beaumont here in town,” said John English of Bethesda Clinic in Tyler, Texas. “Looks like they will be here for the next several weeks. Many are at shelters but they send them out for care, or call for supplies when needed.”

In July, 18 hurricane preparedness packs were sent to qualified health centers in the Gulf States; they have proven useful during this active hurricane season.

“We are using the medications and supplies that you sent for hurricane season,” reported Janet Mentesane, of Martin Luther King Health Center in Shreveport, Louisiana, as Ike was bearing down last Saturday. “The government-run shelter calls in or emails medication orders, we fill them at the clinic, and then take them to the shelter. So far, it is running smoothly.”

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