As the wide-ranging effects of Hurricane Sandy continue to be assessed, Santa Barbara-based Direct Relief International on Wednesday committed an initial $250,000 and its entire $25 million stockpile of available medical inventories to support medical relief and recovery efforts in communities affected by the super storm that hit the East Coast on Monday night after causing significant damage in the Caribbean last week.
Direct Relief is the only nonprofit licensed to distribute prescription medications in all 50 U.S. states. In the past year alone, Direct Relief has delivered 5,000 shipments to its network of more than 1,000 nonprofit clinics and health centers nationwide. The organization runs the largest nonprofit program in the United States providing free medications and supplies to health centers treating low-income patients without insurance.
Since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, when Direct Relief was the single largest nonprofit provider of medical material aid in the affected Gulf States, the organization also has run an extensive hurricane preparedness program that pre-positions medical essentials with hospitals in the Caribbean and nonprofit clinics in hurricane-prone areas of the United States.
“Direct Relief is acutely sensitive to the needs of those who are most vulnerable in emergency situations such as this, and we are working closely with partner nonprofit clinics and health centers in the affected areas that serve people who are vulnerable every day to understand what is needed and mobilize charitable resources to help address those needs,” President/CEO Thomas Tighe said.
Among the immediate concerns in the aftermath of the storm and the mass evacuations it has caused is the risk of health crises arising among people who fled their residences without medications to manage their chronic health conditions.
While the massive property and economic losses are enormous and remain to be assessed, Direct Relief will focus its efforts on immediate and near term support for the health facilities that serve people who rely on the nonprofit health safety net for essential primary care services.
Several corporate contributors to Direct Relief’s USA activities, including Abbott, BD, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson and Teva, stepped forward in the past several days to offer their support with specific medical, nutritional, and personal care items that may be needed by people and communities affected by the storm.
Additionally, longtime supporter, FedEx, has generously offered to provide in-kind transportation services to help send medical supplies to treat those affected by the storm. Direct Relief also benefitted from extensive operational support during the crisis from Palo Alto-based technology company, Palantir, that has enabled multiple streams of information to be organized, visualized, and analyzed to provide situational assessments and inform planning and response.
“The initial $250,000 commitment is being made because we understand that financial pressures hit nonprofit clinics and health centers and their patients particularly hard — they both typically have very little if any financial cushion to fall back on,” Tighe said. “If we receive additional support for Hurricane Sandy, the funds will be spent exclusively for this purpose.”
— Kerri Murray is the vice president of marketing, communications and development for Direct Relief International.