Direct Relief staff hosted New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Thursday, as well as Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and city staff.
Landrieu and Schneider were briefed by Direct Relief CEO Thomas Tighe and staff on Thursday, with disaster preparedness and response a central theme, particularly surrounding the recent hurricanes that ravaged much of Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.
Landrieu is the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and has served as mayor of New Orleans since 2010. Prior to his tenure as mayor, Landrieu served as Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana during Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav.
Direct Relief has been a longstanding supporter of health centers in Louisiana, bolstering the state’s safety-net health system with more than $31 million worth of medicines and medical supplies since 2009.
One of the clinics that has received the most support from Direct Relief is the Excelth Family Health Center located in Algiers, one of New Orleans’ oldest neighborhoods.
Direct Relief’s partnership with the state’s clinics was galvanized when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005, and the organization moved quickly to ship medical support to clinics serving hurricane-impacted patients. Since then, Direct Relief has become the largest charitable medicines program in the U.S., licensed to distribute medicines in all 50 states.
In the wake of Katrina, Direct Relief also began a Hurricane Preparedness Program, which prepositions emergency medicine and medical supplies in U.S. states, including Louisiana, that are vulnerable to hurricanes each year, as well as hurricane-susceptible places in the Caribbean and Central America. Together, the packs include enough supplies to treat tens of thousands of people for trauma or chronic conditions in the aftermath of hurricanes or other destructive weather events.
After 2017’s unprecedented hurricane season, 13 of the packs were opened by health centers, the most of any year since the program began. Nine clinics in Texas, one in Louisiana and three in Florida were able to use the medical supplies to continue treatment of patients throughout the turmoil and aftermath of the storms.
After Thursday’s briefing, tours began of Direct Relief’s new site, expected to be complete by March 2018. The new headquarters will triple the amount of warehouse space available to the organization, allowing even more medicines and medical resources to be shipped around the world.