On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, devastating the lives of thousands of families. The impact of the storm revealed a vast unmet need for medical aid throughout the Gulf Coast region, particularly with community clinics and health centers experiencing a dramatic surge of people needing care. As hospitals quickly filled up, thousands of patients turned to the network of safety net providers throughout the Gulf. Direct Relief USA was positioned to help.
Direct Relief USA was created in 2004 to provide medicines and medical supplies to healthcare providers treating people who were unable afford these critical resources. When Hurricane Katrina hit, the program immediately scaled up to address the critical emergency needs of medicine, medical supplies, and basic medical equipment. In the following days, weeks, and months, Direct Relief delivered more than $47 million in medical aid and $4.6 million in cash grants to help rebuild the healthcare system in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The support was delivered through long-standing relationships with Direct Relief’s network of pharmaceutical and medical manufacturer donors who made a commitment to assist.
“Your support during Hurricane Katrina was a godsend to us,” said U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, M.D., when she was executive director of Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. “We could not have moved from the shelter to the trailer without your help and the continued help afterwards. I am very grateful to Direct Relief.”
Direct Relief USA continues to provide ongoing assistance of medical aid to clinics, health centers, and social service agencies across the U.S. through its Safety Net Inventory Support Program. In the Gulf States, where strong relationships were built during the Katrina response, more than $85 million in medical aid has been provided to 200-plus facilities since 2005. Companies throughout the country have stepped forward with their resources to support this talented network of providers reaching millions of patients.
Collaborating on the response to Katrina has also help Direct Relief establish strong partnerships with and regional and national associations, such as the Louisiana Primary Care Association (LPCA) and the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), which have honored Direct Relief for its commitment to help people in need in the U.S.
While hurricanes can’t be stopped, smart preparation is essential. Since 2007, Direct Relief has equipped health facilities across the Gulf States with Hurricane Preparedness Packs full of medical materials to treat 100 patients for a three-day period – about the time it takes to clear roads and open transportation channels. The program has grown each year, scaling from five sites in 2007 to 50 in 2012.
As Direct Relief knows from decades of emergency relief efforts, recovery from a major disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is a long-term process, and Direct Relief USA remains committed to delivering needed medical resources to our partners here at home in the U.S. as long as a need remains.