Direct Relief International on Monday announced it has committed $250,000 in special hurricane response funds to assist the medical “safety net” — nonprofit clinics, community health centers and alternate care sites at evacuation and shelter areas — along the U.S. Gulf Coast in response to Hurricane Gustav, which is expected to make landfall Monday.

“We think it’s important to make these funds available so that safety-net clinics and community health centers can ramp up their operations,” President and CEO Thomas Tighe said. “These nonprofit facilities have no financial cushion to absorb an influx of patients or financial losses caused by emergencies like this. They may need to procure items locally that are needed immediately, pay for extra staff or finance other short-term concerns.”

Direct Relief is coordinating with the National Association of Community Health Centers and State Primary Care Associations in the Gulf, as well as with individual clinics — all of which Direct Relief has worked with on an ongoing basis since Hurricane Katrina struck three years ago.

In addition to cash resources, Direct Relief already has placed medical material aid into the region. In July, the organization delivered 18 hurricane preparedness packs to locations along the Gulf Coast in advance of possible hurricanes in the late summer and early fall months, and on Friday sent three additional shipments of medical supplies to alternate care sites in Louisiana operating at evacuation sites. Longtime corporate donors including Abbott, BD, CVS, Johnson & Johnson, Matrixx and Miltex have given their products for use at these sites, and FedEx has donated transportation services.

Additional infusions of medical essentials will be provided as necessary to help meet demand. Direct Relief has about $60 million (wholesale) in standing medical material inventory at any given time at its headquarters in Santa Barbara that can be focused on helping the people of the Gulf Coast.

Members of the public wishing to support Direct Relief’s activities for Hurricane Gustav may donate to the Hurricane Preparedness & Response fund online at, by phone at 805.964.4767 or by mail at the address on the Web site. Every dollar donated to the fund is used exclusively for programs assisting health care for people affected by hurricanes, not for fundraising or administration.

Jim Prosser is press secretary for Direct Relief International.