DC-Based Group Helps People in Disaster Zones Get Health Care

A small organization based in Washington, D.C., is working around the clock to make sure people in disaster zones get the medical attention they need for their chronic illnesses.

From a small room in northwest D.C., the Healthcare Ready staff works the phones and computers to help coordinate health care and the delivery of medicines to people who urgently need it.

“We aren't going to be able to do a meaningful close out of Harvey before we start with Irma,” Healthcare Ready Executive Director Nicolette Louissaint said.

HealthCare Ready is a national non-profit created after Hurricane Katrina.

The team worked with nonprofit organizations in Houston during Hurricane Harvey as well as health care providers across the country.

While Healthcare Ready has representatives at the scenes, most of the work is done from D.C.

”How do we make sure that health care systems continue to operate? How do we make sure that deliveries can be made? It's great that the hospital maintains power, but if they don't have the supplies that they need, then they're not able to take care of patients,” she said.

Healthcare Ready also helps individual patients.

“One lady said her brother took his last HIV pill and she had called the pharmacy and they said it would be five days before they would have another prescription ready, and with HIV, there's resistance, and we were able to get his medicines within 12 hours,” Louissaint said.

One key tool Healthcare Ready developed is RX Open. The Federal Emergency Management Agency now relies on it.

“It gives us data to update the status of pharmacies,” Louissaint said.

With all eyes on Irma, RX Open has been activated for Puerto Rico.

“There are some pharmacies starting to close as a precaution,” Louissaint said. “Red dots coming up, but some are open.”

Her team has started getting calls from Florida pharmacies.

They are going on 16 days straight of work, but the benefits are worth it.

“We genuinely believe we are helping thousands of people,” she said.

List of Healthcare Ready resources:

  • Go to your pharmacy for an emergency refill. Florida has a declared a pre-landfall state of emergency which authorizes pharmacists to issue a 30-day refill of maintenance medications. Always have at least seven days’ worth of medication with you.
  • Record your prescription information. Use Rx on the Run to create a card with your (or a loved one’s) prescription information and healthcare provider’s contact information.
  • Make copies or take pictures of prescription labels, your health insurance card, and any prescription card.
  • Bring empty prescription bottles, if possible. Pharmacies may require a record of your prescriptions. An empty bottle can help them locate your record and refill your prescription.
  • Pack all your medications in a water tight plastic bag.
  • Take all medicines with you if you must evacuate.
  • Use Rx Open, a free live map to find a nearby pharmacy if you evacuate and need to replace lost medications.
  • If you run into trouble getting your medications or medical care you need, call Healthcare Ready at 1-866-247-2694 for assistance.
  • If you would like to help those affected by Harvey, please visit Healthcare Ready's donation page or contact Membership@HealthcareReady.org.
  • Other resources: Florida Emergency Refill Information | FDA Safe Drug Use After a Disaster | CDC Hurricane Preparedness
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