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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 4:49 am | Mostly Cloudy 52º


Direct Relief Activates Emergency Response as Colorado Fires Rage

Goleta-based nonprofit steps up to meet urgent needs for essential medicines and supplies

As a result of the ongoing fires raging through Colorado, Goleta-based Direct Relief International has activated its emergency response efforts by reaching out to 13 community-based nonprofit health clinic partners near the areas affected by the High Park and Waldo Canyon wildfires. The fires have destroyed hundreds of homes and forced more than 30,000 people to evacuate in the past week.

Direct Relief is responding to an urgent request for essential medicines and supplies from the Sunrise Monfort Family Clinic in Evans, Colo., which is caring for families who were forced to evacuate their homes.

Direct Relief is sending an emergency response shipment valued at more than $25,000 directly to the clinic. The emergency pack will contain first-aid kits, over-the-counter products, personal hygiene items, eye drops and other medical supplies.

“Anything would be appreciated,” said Shannon Rea of the Sunrise Monfort Family Clinic. “We were watching several houses go up in flames last night and this morning. It has been devastating to our state.”

Direct Relief extended an offer of support to the Colorado Community Health Network, which supports 15 health centers providing care to 500,000 community members, to assist with the coordination of medical supplies at its network of facilities.

Direct Relief is also in communication with Denver Indian Health & Family Services Inc., which reported that patients are coming in to the clinic each day with eye irritation and allergies they believe are related to the smoke.

Wildfires pose serious health risks beyond the flames themselves. Wildfire smoke containing particulate matter can hurt the eyes, irritate the respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung conditions, especially in children.

Any rapid, mass evacuation raises general health risks for evacuees, particularly those who require medications to manage chronic conditions, like asthma and diabetes. These treatments are often forgotten when people rush to flee their homes in an emergency.

“All emergencies are local events, and the nonprofit primary care clinics are typically among the critical social-service agencies that get stretched in emergencies as their already strained supply and workforce provides care for evacuees,” said Thomas Tighe, CEO of Direct Relief. “We want to ensure they have rapid access to the emergency supplies they and their patients require.”

Direct Relief is the only nonprofit organization in the United States licensed to distribute prescription medicines in all 50 states, and it maintains an ongoing program to support a nationwide network of nonprofit, community-based health centers and clinics to help low-income, uninsured patients obtain needed medicines and also respond to emergencies.

FedEx, which provides extensive logistics and transportation support to Direct Relief’s ongoing and emergency efforts, has offered free transportation for all medical resources to the clinics. Additionally, more than 30 pharmaceutical and health-care companies have approved shipments of medicines and medical supplies to be furnished free of charge at facilities that request them.

When the fires subside, the recovery brings its own challenges, especially for low-income people who are hardest hit by emergencies because they have the least ability to absorb the financial stress that results. Direct Relief is committed to working with nonprofit community clinics and health centers to maintain services for these vulnerable populations and ensure they have access to the medicines they need on an ongoing basis and during emergencies.

Click here to donate to emergency preparedness and response efforts.

— Hannah Rael is a media relations and communications consultant for Direct Relief International.

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