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Getting ready for storms
Nonprofit sends medical pack to clinic
Vickie Smith, Diversity Health Centers director of nursing, checks supplies left over from Direct Relief Internationals emergency hurricane pack sent last year. - photo by Randy C.Murray

Hinesville’s Diversity Health Center soon was receive a hurricane preparedness medical pack, just in time for hurricane season that starts today and runs through Nov. 1. The pack contains enough medicines and supplies to treat 100 patients for three to five days after a hurricane.

Direct Relief International, a nonprofit organization based in Santa Barbara, Calif., is pre-positioning the emergency medical supplies in nine states, including Georgia. According to Direct Relief, more than 35 million Americans living on the Gulf and East coasts from Texas to North Carolina are at risk from hurricanes.

Vickie Smith, Diversity’s director of nursing, said her clinic received a hurricane pack last year too. She said she is grateful for both.
“When we got it last year, it was a blessing,” Smith said. “And it was a blessing we never had to use it for a hurricane. When hurricane season ended, we were allowed to break the packages down and use the medications for some of our indigent-care patients.”

Smith has been with Diversity for two years. She said last year’s hurricane pack came on several pallets. They broke it down by boxes and stored the items.

She said everything was labeled, so they didn’t have to sort it, although they did separate medicines like insulin that need to be refrigerated. The clinic has back-up generator s for refrigerators and emergency lighting in case of a power outage, she said.

Damon N. Taugher, director of Direct Relief USA, said the packs are made each hurricane season, adding that his organization re-enrolls the same clinics each year “with moderate growth.”

“We work with the State Primary Care Association, and those clinics we have relationships with to identify potential partners,” Taugher said. “The other clinics in Georgia that we are supporting this year include Community Health Care Systems in Sandersville, First Choice Primary Care in Macon and JC Lewis Health Center of Union Mission in Savannah.”

Smith said the emergency packs will be helpful if this area is hit by a hurricane. She said Tropical Storm Beryl should remind area residents how much they are at risk for a hurricane, noting that some of her patients are at a greater risk because they lack the means to evacuate.

“We try to help out everybody we can,” she said. “Most of our patients have no insurance, so we run on a tight budget. The medicines in the emergency kits were very handy. We still have some medicines that haven’t expired.”

According to its website, Direct Relief is the only nonprofit organization licensed to distribute prescription medications in all 50 states, which it does by maintaining a support program with more than 1,000 nonprofit clinics and health centers across the country. Its hurricane preparedness program is valued at over $1 million.

“We couldn’t do the program without the support from our corporate donors as well as our individual donors,” said Taugher.

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