Hurricane Gustav took its toll on St. Charles Community Health Center, just outside New Orleans, which we visited on our last day. The main clinic was spared, but the Behavioral Health/Podiatry/Administration building across the street sustained severe structural damage. The roof was picked up, causing leaks and water damage and the fire escape was torn from the building and destroyed. The building is uninhabitable, so the departments housed in that building had to move into the main facility. Behavioral Health now occupies the kitchen and psychiatry appointments take place in IT offices or empty treatment rooms. Repairs will take four to six weeks. Julia Bodden, Community Outreach Coordinator, told us that St. Charles closed for a week after Gustav because of a power outage. When they reopened, the clinic saw about 45 additional patients a day from surrounding parishes. Its mobile unit was sent to the food-stamp line to treat people waiting in line in extreme heat and humidity.
We also met Maria Rivas and her young daughter. Ms. Rivas was one of the first patients to go through St. Charles’ Pregnancy Program, started nearly two years ago with Direct Relief grant funds. She has served as an advocate for St. Charles among the area’s growing Hispanic community.