Nearly 6 months after Hurricane Harvey first struck Texas, Americares Houston team continues to expand relief efforts with local partners that have already received more than 126 shipments of medicine and supplies, including enough to fill more than 140,000 prescriptions. Americares has now provided more than $10 million worth of medicines, supplies and financial assistance to 50 partners in disaster-affected communities to across Texas, from Corpus Christi to Port Arthur, including Houston, Beaumont, and many other affected communities. We have helped 9 local health centers replace damaged medicines, restore health services disrupted by the storm, and expand service in disaster affected communities. Support has been provided to three health centers for mobile medical services for disaster survivors who lack access. Americares has launched its Hurricane Harvey Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services Program, providing Psychological First Aid (PFA) training for partners operating mobile medical units. Photo: Annie Mulligan
“What has captured my attention here in Houston, however, is not the broader road to recovery but the individual pathways people are finding. This is not one big story but many. ”
In the midst of disaster, survivors require medicine for acute and chronic conditions, and Americares has provided a range, including asthma medicine, tetanus vaccine and, in the week following Harvey’s deluge, enough insulin to provide a month’s supply for more than 1,000 diabetic patients in the disaster-affected area. Through the City of Houston Department of Health, Americares donated wheelchairs, walkers as well as medicine to the city’s mega-shelters, including the George R. Brown Convention Center, where more than 10,000 people sought refuge.
Before public transportation and other ride services had resumed in the Houston area, Americares provided transportation for dialysis patients to treatment centers—some patients had gone for a week without dialysis. Floods closed roads and shut down over 100 area dialysis centers, making routine visits impossible for many.
“Thank God you all came out to get me and bring me to where I get dialysis,” says Beaumont, Texas, resident Melvin. “ They had to shut down everything here, the hospitals, everything. I have to get out to get dialysis and I’m blessed that you all are doing this for me. I really am.”
Americares support for local health centers to provide mobile medical services is especially critical for those patients who lack any form of transportation.
Local health centers that serve low-income and uninsured patients have asked Americares for medicine, supplies, logistical help and other support as they have seen a surge of patients at the same time that their own staff is recovering from the floods. Some clinics opened their doors to all patients, dropping eligibility requirements and even fees to ensure that survivors have access to the health care they need.
“We are preparing to take in an influx of patients who otherwise would not be eligible for our services,” says Heidi W. Bunyan, the chief operations officer of San Jose Clinic in Houston, a partner in Americares ongoing U.S. Program since 2014. “We’re waiving all of our eligibility requirements for anyone who needs care. We’re also waiving our patient contributions so people who need care and don’t have access to funds or need those funds for other things don’t have to worry about paying for medical care.”
“Americares provides a benefit to the community under regular circumstances, but having that relationship with an organization that is an expert in disaster relief and emergency response and is able to provide boots on the ground is of tremendous value. I don’t think you can put a dollar amount on that.“
Americares deployed an emergency response team to Texas before the hurricane made landfall and a team remains in Texas, working out of Houston with federal, state and local organizations. More local staff members have been added as Americares expands its working network, developing and implementing plans with local organizations and free clinics to provide access to medicine, relief supplies and basic health care for people in crisis. As many as 30,000 people lost their homes and more than 200,000 homes and businesses were destroyed or damaged. Currently, 33,000 people are still displaced and living in temporary federal emergency housing.
A Category 4 hurricane, Harvey made landfall between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, Texas with winds of 130 miles per hour, bringing massive destruction to communities in its path. Governor Greg Abbott of Texas expanded a disaster declaration to include 60 counties, and 30 of those counties were declared federal disaster areas. At least 70 deaths have been reported along with many injuries and tens of thousands driven from their homes as more than 50 inches of rain caused catastrophic flooding, particularly in the Houston area. The storm’s slow path and record rainfall devastated many communities, making a second landfall in Louisiana where five parishes were declared disaster areas.
The storm is the most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S. in 13 years and the strongest to strike Texas since 1961’s Hurricane Carla, the most powerful Texas hurricane on record. Hurricane Harvey damage is estimated at $125 billion, second only to Hurricane Katrina.
The recovery is expected to be long and difficult as thousands of people return to homes and neighborhoods badly damaged or destroyed.
Americares has professional relief workers ready to respond to disasters at a moment’s notice and stocks emergency medicine and supplies in its warehouses in the U.S., Europe and India that can be delivered quickly in times of crisis. The organization responds to an average of 30 natural disasters and humanitarian crises worldwide each year, establishes long-term recovery projects and brings disaster preparedness programs to vulnerable communities. Americares has a long history of responding to severe storms in the United States including Hurricane Ike in 2008 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Should Americares raise funds in excess of what’s needed to respond to this particular crisis, the funds will be redirected to where the need is greatest.