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Direct Relief often contracts with freelance photographers who usually, but not always, allow their work to be published by Direct Relief’s media partners. Contact Direct Relief for permission to use images in which Direct Relief is not credited in the caption by clicking here.

Other Requirements:

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For any additional questions about republishing Direct Relief content, please email the team here.

Emergency Support Continues for Free Clinics, Health Centers Reeling from Hurricane Ian

Direct Relief staff meet with doctors and clinicians serving their communities, post-storm.


Hurricane Ian

Direct Relief's Marisa Barnes meets with pharmacist Adriana Seczon at Neighborhood Health Center in Naples, Florida on Monday, October 3, 2022. (Zack Wittman for Direct Relief)

Emergency response in Hurricane Ian’s aftermath continues this week, as many health centers and free clinics in Florida work to re-open their doors to patients. Some never closed and were spared damage, others began working in other locations or deploying mobile units.

Direct Relief staff met with health centers and free clinics impacted by Hurricane Ian on Monday and Tuesday, to assess the needs from the deadliest storm to hit the state since 1935.

Direct Relief is in daily contact with National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, and the organization reports the top concerns among members in Florida are loss of funding for staff time and structural damage, lack of power and water, as well as loss of temperature-sensitive medications like insulin and vaccines. Staff members dealing with damage at their own homes, lack of childcare with schools closed, and the impacts of evacuations on staff are all high on the list. Limited internet connectivity due to power outages is also a concern.

At least two of the free clinics in Port Charlotte and Lakeland lost some or all of their insulin stocks and vaccines, including Covid-19 vaccines. Power and damage assessments will continue this week. Some of the less impacted clinics have been working to connect patients and the community with emergency services. For example, the Osceola Council of Aging Health Clinic in Kissimmee had its building turn into a special needs shelter, and has been working to help relocate special needs community members.

Keeping the Lights on in Naples

Direct Relief’s Tom Roane inspects a generator that was donated by Direct Relief at Neighborhood Health Center in Naples, Florida on Monday, October 3, 2022. The generator allowed power to stay on in the clinic, protecting temperature-sensitive medications. (Zack Wittman for Direct Relief)

Direct Relief staff visited the Neighborhood Health Clinic in Naples, a free clinic providing medical and dental services to low-income uninsured workers in Collier County. All medical and dental services are provided entirely by volunteers, and the clinic sees about 250 patients per week.

Direct Relief’s Marisa Barnes visited the clinic Monday, and said that while Hurricane Ian had a significant impact on Naples, Neighborhood Health Center did not sustain any substantial damage. A backup generator provided by Direct Relief several years ago kicked in as the power went out across the community and all the insulin and vaccines remained safe and at required temperatures, in a temperature-controlled refrigerator also provided by Direct Relief, Barnes said. During the visit, the team was also able to place an order for more needed emergency medicines.

Direct Relief’s Tom Roane looks over medication with Martine Woolley, pharmacist at the Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida clinic in Naples, Florida on Monday, October 3, 2022. (Zack Wittman for Direct Relief)

The team also visited the Healthcare Network of SW Florida (Collier Health) in Naples. The Federally Qualified Health Center is located further inland, and while the building was not impacted by the hurricane, many of its staff and patients’ homes sustained damage.

The clinic was able to order personal care packs, containing soap, toothbrushes, and other personal care items for displaced people, insulin, and other chronic disease medications which the clinic will be distributing via a mobile unit this week as they provide care in rural locations.

Wind damage from Hurricane Ian in Naples, Florida on Monday, October 3, 2022. (Zack Wittman for Direct Relief)

On Tuesday, more than 417,000 people were without power, according to Poweroutage.us. Officials in Lee County, which includes Ft. Myers, estimated Monday that the area would be without power for one month.

Because of the large amount of broken glass, shredded metal and other debris seen in places like Port Charlotte, Barnes expressed concern that people returning to their homes for clean-up could be risk of injury and infection, including tetanus and other bacterial infections. Waterborne illness is also a concern, as many places across the state are under boil water advisories. Lack of power can also create a dangerous situation for people dependent on electricity-powered medical devices.

Barnes reported that much of Port Charlotte is without power, and the city has major infrastructure damage, with street signs blown flat, street lights pulled out of the ground, trees down and many buildings left without roofs due to high winds.

“There’s a lot of physical damage,” said Direct Relief’s Tom Roane, who was conducting emergency assessments and site visits Monday. “Some people will have insurance, but so many others won’t.”

In addition to essential medicine requests, high numbers of requests for backup power have been made to the organization as well as personal care products for people displaced from their homes.

Nineteen shipments of medical aid were prepped for shipment to Florida on Monday, and 18 staged for South Carolina from Direct Relief’s warehouse. Because kits of personal care items were being ordered across the state, a volunteer event was held Tuesday at Direct Relief’s California headquarters, where 2,500 of the kits were packed for people who have been displaced by Ian.

Emergency response efforts will continue this week.

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