Emergency Response Update: Hurricane Harvey (9/4/17)


Hurricane Harvey

Medical supplies are unloaded to stock a mobile clinic hosted at Angleton High School, where more than 2,400 people were seeking shelter. (Lara Cooper/Direct Relief photo)

Being able to plug in and move fast has been a great benefit because conditions in Texas include some particular health challenges. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in all U.S. states and also has high rates of individuals living with one or more chronic health conditions that, if unaddressed, become emergency cases rapidly.

While the focus, naturally, has been on search and rescue and emergency shelter operations, Direct Relief anticipated that, as soon as possible, health services would roll out of shelters and into the existing health system – including the health centers and free/charitable clinics – which are already experiencing a surge of patients in need.

Direct Relief’s focus has been, as always, on the people, facilities, and organizations that not only stepped up in the immediate event – such as the health centers deploying medical staff to shelters – but will also be the critical healthcare safety net in the weeks and months ahead for people who are particularly vulnerable because they have so few other options to access the health services they need.

Here’s a summary of Direct Relief’s programmatic activity so far:

  • 120 emergency shipments containing more than $2 million worth of medicines, insulin, tetanus vaccines, and supplies have been sent to 26 safety net healthcare facilities.
  • $500,000 cash committed for emergency operating grants of up to $25,000 for community health centers and free/charitable clinics that have sustained damage from the storm or are providing services to evacuees so they are able to restart or continue emergency services.
    • $350,000 cash for health centers – in consultation with Texas Association of Community Health Centers (TACHC). TACHC has 60-member nonprofit health centers that operate 300 sites and provide care to 1.2 million patients in Texas.
    • $150,000 cash for free/charitable clinics – in consultation with National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics (NAFC), a parallel arrangement as with TACHC for its members. NAFC members operate 65 free or charitable clinics in Texas that provide 350,000 patient visits/year.
  • Nine prepositioned emergency health kits have been opened and used, including in shelters, and 6 additional kits have been sent as requested

Direct Relief’s response over the past 10 days has scaled rapidly due to:

  • The extensive network of healthcare safety net facilities in Texas that Direct Relief works with very closely on an ongoing basis,
  • the internal systems that have been put in place generally for data collection, operations, and both partner and external communications and specifically for emergencies of this type,
  • the pre-positioning of Direct Relief’s Hurricane packs (nine of 11 have been used) and the overnighted-emergency health kits that were designed for this scenario (and, so far, based on feedback from the medical staffs in Texas, have been proven to be on-target),
  • having anticipated this type of scenario and understanding how they tend to unfold and where and with whom to coordinate plans,
  • being licensed in and known by the key actors in the health system and emergency response network in Texas and nationally, and
  • generally being able to plug into existing networks, use existing tools, and accelerate what Direct Relief does in the way it normally does it, making adjustments on the fly as needed — but not creating the entire response from whole cloth.

People in Texas are living through such a tough time, and, because of support from companies, individuals, and foundations, Direct Relief is in a good position to help.

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