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Secretario Price declara emergencia de salud pública en Puerto Rico y las Islas Vírgenes de EE. UU. a causa del huracán María

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - 23:00

Tras las declaraciones de emergencia en Puerto Rico y las Islas Vírgenes de EE. UU por parte del presidente Trump, el secretario del Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos, Dr. Tom Price, declaró hoy la emergencia de salud pública en Puerto Rico y las Islas Vírgenes de EE. UU a medida que el huracán María avanza hacia los territorios de EE. UU. La declaración permitió al secretario emitir una exención bajo la sección 1135 de la Ley de Seguro Social para estas áreas a fin de permitir que los Centros de Servicios de Medicare y Medicaid (CMS) tomen medidas para otorgar a los beneficiarios y proveedores de atención médica de la red mayor flexibilidad para la atención de situaciones de emergencia.

“El huracán María representa una amenaza significativa a la salud y seguridad pública para quienes viven en Puerto Rico y las Islas Vírgenes de EE. UU.”, dijo el secretario Price, M.D. “En preparación, HHS está movilizando activos y alistando personal y suministros para ayudar a quienes están en el camino de la tormenta. La declaración de estado de emergencia de salud pública para Puerto Rico y las Islas Vírgenes de EE. UU. ayudará en la capacidad de respuesta del departamento en particular para garantizar que los individuos y las familias en dichos territorios con Medicare, Medicaid y el Programa de Seguro Médico Infantil (CHIP) puedan acceder a los servicios”.

Estas medidas y flexibilizaciones tienen vigencia en forma retroactiva al 16 de septiembre para las Islas Vírgenes de EE. UU. y al 17 de septiembre para Puerto Rico.

HHS se prepara de manera anticipada para dar su apoyo a Puerto Rico y las Islas Vírgenes de EE. UU. en la respuesta ante el huracán Maria. HHS tiene más de 120 integrantes de su personal designados en Puerto Rico, incluso personal del Sistema Médico Nacional para Catástrofes, un Equipo de Coordinación de Respuesta ante Incidentes de la oficina del Subsecretario de Preparación y Respuesta, y un equipo de salud ambiental de los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades. Los expertos están listos para proporcionar atención médica y apoyo de salud pública según sea necesario después de que el huracán María toque tierra. Equipos médicos y de salud pública adicionales están esperando la llamada si es necesario.

La línea de ayuda para casos de angustia ante catástrofes de la administración de servicios de salud mental y abuso de sustancias está disponible para asistir a las personas y ayudarles a manejar los efectos de la tormenta en su salud conductual y ayudar a las personas de las áreas impactadas a conectarse con los profesionales de salud conductual locales. Los residentes pueden llamar gratis al 1-800-985-5990 o enviar un mensaje de texto con la palabra TalkWithUs al 66746 para contactarse con un asesor especialista en crisis.

La Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos comparte activamente información sobre alimentos, medicamentos y seguridad de dispositivos en inglés y español.

La Administración de recursos y servicios de salud monitorea veinte beneficiarios del centro de salud, que operan más de 90 ubicaciones que brindan atención médica, donde más de 350,000 pacientes en Puerto Rico recibieron atención en 2016.

HHS continúa en contacto normal con funcionarios de salud de Puerto Rico y las Islas Vírgenes de EE. UU. para concientizar sobre la situación local y prepararse para argumentar su apoyo al territorio según se desencadene la situación.

HHS se compromete a cubrir las necesidades médicas y de salud pública de las comunidades de todo Puerto Rico y las Islas Vírgenes de EE. UU. que fueron äfectadas por el huracán María en las consecuencias inmediatas de la tormenta y mientras se recuperan las áreas afectadas. La Oficina de la Subsecretaría para la Preparación y Respuesta del HHS publicará información con consejos de seguridad y salud durante y después del huracán, que estará disponible en: www.phe.gov/emergency




Secretary Price declares public health emergency in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands due to Hurricane Maria

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - 18:15

Following President Trump’s emergency declarations for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D., today declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as Hurricane Maria approaches the U.S. territories. The declaration allowed the secretary to issue a waiver under section 1135 of the Social Security Act for these areas to enable the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to take action that gives beneficiaries and their health care providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs.

“Hurricane Maria currently poses a significant threat to the public health and safety of those living in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Secretary Price, M.D. “In preparation, HHS is mobilizing assets and readying personnel and supplies to help those in the path of the storm. Declaring a public health emergency for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will aid in the department’s response capabilities – particularly as it relates to ensuring that individuals and families in those territories with Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) maintain access to care.”

These actions and flexibilities are effective retroactively to September 16 for the U.S. Virgin Islands and to September 17 for Puerto Rico.

HHS is making preparations in advance to support Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in responding to Hurricane Maria. HHS has more than 120 personnel deployed in Puerto Rico, including staff from National Disaster Medical System personnel, an Incident Response Coordination Team from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, and an environmental health team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The experts are ready to provide medical care and public health support as needed after Hurricane Maria makes landfall. Additional medical and public health teams are ready to be called in as needed.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Disaster Distress Helpline is available to aid people in coping with the behavioral health effects of the storm and help people in impacted areas connect with local behavioral health professionals. Residents can call 1-800-985-5990 toll free or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

The Food and Drug Administration is actively sharing important information on food, medicine, and device safety in English and Spanish.

The Health Resources and Services Administration is monitoring twenty health center grantees, that operate more than 90 service delivery sites, where more than 350,000 patients in Puerto Rico received care in 2016.

HHS remains in regular contact with Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands health officials to maintain awareness of the local situation and stands ready to augment its support to the territory as the situation unfolds.

HHS is committed to meeting the medical and public health needs of communities across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands impacted by Hurricane Maria in the immediate aftermath of the storm and as affected areas recover. Information on health safety tips during and after the hurricane will be provided by the Office of the Assistance Secretary for Preparedness and Response and will be available at www.phe.gov/emergency

Critical updates will also be available at:




Readout of Secretary Price and ASPR’s Visit to Florida-Based Medical Support Teams

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - 17:45

On Monday, HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D., traveled to Florida as part of the Trump Administration’s government-wide efforts to provide relief to those affected by Hurricane Irma. Along with HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, M.D., Secretary Price visited the HHS National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) and U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps teams that are serving as part of the federal response in Florida. First, Secretary Price met with Florida Governor Rick Scott and local officials at the Marathon Emergency Operations Center to discuss the current state of the Florida Keys, as well as the recovery efforts on the ground. During the meeting, Secretary Price and Governor Scott discussed the cooperation between the state, local communities and HHS operations. Secretary Price highlighted the seamless coordination HHS has experienced working with the state of Florida. This cooperation is aided by President Trump’s early emergency declaration, which allowed HHS to prepare ahead of the storm. Dr. Kadlec provided additional details related to deployed assets and how his office, through its emPower initiative, quickly shared information with local first responders about Medicare beneficiaries whose lives depend on electrically powered medical equipment at home or on dialysis. Secretary Price underscored that, because of the President’s rapid action, HHS was able to lean in early to both prepare for, and respond to, the impact of Hurricane Irma by: Deploying medical assets, including members of the Public Health Service, the NDMS, and mobile medical units; Providing data and expertise to first responders and local officials; Issuing waivers for Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP to enable individuals to get the care they need; and Supplying recovery assistance to address ongoing public health, healthcare, and human services issues that arise from an emergency. Next, Secretary Price, Dr. Kadlec, and Governor Scott toured an NDMS temporary medical site set up in the parking lot behind Marathon City Hall. There they met with the NDMS teams comprised of medical professionals from Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire who have treated nearly 200 patients over the past week. Secretary Price, Dr. Kadlec, and Governor Scott saw the NDMS team in action as members triaged and cared for patients and provided mental health support. Secretary Price and Dr. Kadlec traveled to Florida International University (FIU) in Miami to visit a special needs shelter operated by the state and staffed in part by the Commissioned Corps. There, they met with FIU President Mark Rosenberg to learn how FIU has been serving its local community by housing medical responders, including the Commissioned Corps, and patients in need. The FIU shelter has accommodated people with chronic illness, those who require a caretaker, and those with unique mental health needs. Secretary Price and Dr. Kadlec toured the shelter and met with 25 patients who told them that the Commissioned Corps health professionals not only provided exceptional care, but also gave them hope for life after Hurricane Irma.  HHS personnel have now cared for approximately 2,300 patients, equally split between the mainland and the islands. The Trump Administration and HHS remain committed to meeting the medical and public health needs of communities across the southeastern U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands impacted by Hurricane Irma. This visit will further support ongoing federal and state response and recover efforts. [...]



HHS partners to develop first intranasal treatment for cyanide poisoning

Monday, September 18, 2017 (All day)

The first intranasal (nose spray) treatment for the life-threatening effects of cyanide poisoning will be developed under an agreement between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and Emergent BioSolutions of Gaithersburg, Maryland. Cyanide could be used as a chemical weapon against the United States. “Cyanide is easily obtained, and exposure to high levels of the chemical can cause death within minutes,” explained Rick Bright, Ph.D., director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a component of ASPR. “All currently approved cyanide antidotes are administered intravenously, which takes time, training, and medical resources. To save lives, first responders need a treatment they can administer easily within seconds in the field.” Under the 17-month, $12.7 million agreement announced today, Emergent will develop an intranasal, stabilized form of Isoamyl Nitrite. Amyl Nitrite traditionally has been used to treat angina pectoris, severe chest pain caused by an inadequate supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Studies have shown Amyl Nitrite to be an effective treatment for cyanide poisoning, although the drug is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifically for this use. The company will develop a reformulated active ingredient, isoamyl nitrite, along with an intranasal delivery device, with the goal of gaining FDA approval. The contract can be extended up to a total of approximately $63 million over 5 years. As a BARDA partner, Emergent will conduct nonclinical and clinical safety and efficacy studies; manufacturing activities; all associated regulatory, quality assurance, management work, and administrative activities necessary prior to the initiation of a Phase 3 (large) clinical study. Development of this new drug is part of BARDA’s efforts to develop medical products and procedures to protect health and save lives in terrorist attacks, including those using chemical warfare agents like cyanide. Cyanide was used in World War I as a chemical weapon, in World War II concentration camps, and most recently this past spring in the Syrian Civil War. These treatments are among the post-exposure treatments and non-pharmaceutical interventions BARDA and its private partners are developing to counter the health effects of chemical exposure. Products include novel and repurposed therapeutics, and decontamination for treatment of exposure to any of four classes of chemical agents. BARDA continues to seek proposals for the development of effective products to treat injuries caused by chemical agents, including new products and new indications for products already in clinical use. The products must be easy to use in a mass casualty situation and safe and effective for all segments of the population. Proposals are accepted through the Broad Agency Announcement BARDA-CBRN-BAA-16-100-SOL-00001 at the Federal Business Opportunities website, www.fbo.gov. The project announced today is part of BARDA’s integrated portfolio for the advanced research and development, innovation, acquisition, and manufacturing of medical countermeasures – vaccines, drugs, therapeutics, diagnostic tools, and non-pharmaceutical products for public health emergency threats. These threats include chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents, pandemic influenza, and emerging infectious diseases. ASPR leads HHS in preparing the nation to respond to and recover from adverse health effects of emergencies, supporting communities’ ability to withstand adversity, strengthening health and response systems, and enhancing national health security. HHS is the principal federal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. To learn more about preparedness, response and recovery from the health impacts of disasters, visit the HHS [...]



HHS activates program to reimburse hospitals caring for patients evacuated following Hurricane Irma

Sunday, September 17, 2017 (All day)

As part of the Trump Administration’s government-wide efforts to provide relief to those affected by Hurricane Irma, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) activated a program to help hospitals and medical facilities providing care to people affected by Irma. This is the first time HHS has activated the program in response to a natural disaster since a devastating earthquake hit Haiti in 2010. The program, called the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) Definitive Care Reimbursement Program, reimburses medical facilities and hospitals for the definitive medical care costs of patients medically evacuated following disasters. These patients are directed to NDMS-designated hospitals and medical facilities and tracked through Federal Coordinating Centers managed by the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense. “Hurricane Irma significantly affected access to medical care in the areas hardest hit by the storm, and patients who need care in these impacted areas must rely on facilities in areas spared by the storm,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, M.D. “We are activating NDMS’ Definitive Care Reimbursement Program to ensure that the medical facilities and hospitals accepting these patients will be reimbursed for the vital care they are providing.” The program, overseen by HHS ASPR, covers medical care provided to people who are injured or became ill as a result of natural disasters if medical care is no longer available in their local area after the disaster. Covered services include medically necessary hospital care, which can extend beyond the typical 30-day stay, as well as home care, rehabilitation, physical therapy and primary care. Approximately 85 patients will be covered under the NDMS definitive care program in eligible medical facilities in Puerto Rico. These patients were medically evacuated to Puerto Rico from the U.S. Virgin Islands utilizing resources available through the U.S. Department of Defense and Federal Emergency Management Agency’s national ambulance contract. Facilities receive reimbursement up to 110 percent of the Medicare rate for participating in the program or a comparable rate if the Medicare rate is unavailable. The facilities must make available up to 25 beds for NDMS patients. More than 1,900 hospitals across the country participate in NDMS’ Definitive Care Reimbursement Program. In addition to the definitive care program, NDMS provides medical professional who can assist state and local medical professionals in impacted areas. Approximately 5,000 medical, public health, and emergency management professionals comprise the NDMS and are organized into more than 70 response teams. They hail from communities nationwide and serve as intermittent federal government employees in a coordinated federal response. HHS remains committed to meeting the medical and public health needs of communities across the southeast impacted by Hurricane Irma. Health tips for clean up after the hurricane are available at www.phe.gov/irma. Critical updates also are available at: ASPR - @PHEgov HHS - @HHSgov CDC - @CDCgov Secretary Tom Price, M.D. - @SecPriceMD About ASPR: ASPR leads the nation in preventing, preparing for, and responding to the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters. The HHS division focuses on preparedness planning and response; building federal emergency medical operational capabilities; countermeasures research, advance development, and procurement; and grants to strengthen the capabilities of hospitals and health care systems in public health emergencies and medical disasters. [...]



HHS commits $144.1 million in additional funding for opioid crisis

Friday, September 15, 2017 - 10:15

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded an additional $144.1 million in grants to prevent and treat opioid addiction in support of President Trump’s commitment to combat the opioid crisis. The grants will be administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Access a text-only version of this data. “Those supporting prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts in our local communities are heroes in our nation’s battle against the opioid crisis,” said HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D. “On our nationwide listening tour, we have heard how critical federal resources can empower their efforts to meet the challenges of substance abuse and addiction, especially with the opioid crisis. These grants will help expand treatment and recovery services to pregnant and postpartum women who are struggling with substance abuse, train our first responders to effectively use overdose reversing drugs, improve access to medication-assisted treatment, and increase long term recovery services. Together, we can heal communities and save lives.” According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2016 an estimated 11.8 million people misused opioids in the past year, including prescription pain relievers and heroin.  Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 2016 suggests the number of drug overdose deaths, most of them due to opioids will likely top 60,000. “Opioid use disorders continue to plague our nation,” said Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use. “These funds will support and expand prevention, treatment and recovery services in America’s communities.”  The first four of the six grant programs listed below were authorized in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) of 2016, (P.L. 114-198). CARA authorized funding to fight the opioid epidemic through prevention, treatment, recovery, overdose reversal, and other efforts. The fifth grant program listed, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), received an increase in funding for opioids in the fiscal year 2017 Omnibus Appropriations bill. SAMHSA is issuing the funding through the six grant programs listed below in the following amounts: First Responders – Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act - $44.7 million. The purpose of this program is to provide training and medication for emergency treatment of opioid overdose. https://www.samhsa.gov/grants/awards/2017/SP-17-005 State Pilot Grant for Treatment of Pregnant and Postpartum Women - Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act - $9.8 million. The purpose of the program is to support family-based services for pregnant and postpartum women with a primary diagnosis of a substance use disorder, including opioid use disorders. https://www.samhsa.gov/grants/awards/2017/TI-17-016 Building Communities of Recovery - Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act - $4.6 million. The purpose of this program is to increase the availability of long-term recovery support for substance abuse and addiction. https://www.samhsa.gov/grants/awards/2017/TI-17-015 Improving Access to Overdose Treatment - Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act - $1 million. The purpose of this program is to expand access to FDA-approved drugs or devices for emergency treatment of opioid overdose. https://www.samhsa.gov/grants/awards/2017/SP-17-006 Targeted Capacity Expansion:  Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) – Prescription Drug and Opioid Addiction - $35 million. The purpose of this program is to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for persons with an opioid use disorder seeking treatment. https://www.samhsa.gov/grants/awards/2017/TI-17-017 Services Grant Program for Residential Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women - $49 million. The purpose of this program is to expand services for women and their children in residential substance abuse treatme[...]



HRSA awards $200 million to health centers nationwide to tackle mental health and fight the opioid overdose crisis

Thursday, September 14, 2017 - 14:15

Today, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded more than $200 million to 1,178 health centers and 13 rural health organizations in every U.S. state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Pacific Basin to increase access to substance abuse and mental health services. “No corner of our country, from rural areas to urban centers, has escaped the scourge of the opioid crisis,” said HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D. “The Trump Administration is taking strong, decisive action to respond to the crisis caused by the opioid epidemic. These grants from HRSA go directly to local organizations, which are best situated to address substance abuse and mental health issues in their own communities.” Approximately $200 million will support 1,178 health centers to support expansion and integration of mental health services and substance abuse services. These services focus on the treatment, prevention, and awareness of opioid abuse in the primary care setting by increasing personnel, leveraging health information technology, and providing training. The expanded funding is part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ five-point strategy to fight the opioid epidemic by: Improving access to treatment and recovery services. Targeting use of overdose-reversing drugs. Strengthening our understanding of the epidemic through better public health surveillance. Providing support for cutting-edge research on pain and addiction. Advancing better practices for pain management. "Nationally, about half of all care for common mental health conditions happens in the primary care settings," said HRSA Administrator George Sigounas, MS, Ph.D. "In health centers, where people are often most comfortable, staff with varied expertise have a unique opportunity to provide mental health and substance abuse services to patients who wouldn’t otherwise seek or have access to treatment.” Rural states are more likely to have higher rates of overdose death, particularly from prescription opioid overdose. To address their unique needs, 496 of the health centers that receive The Access Increases in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (AIMS) awards are located in rural communities. An additional nearly $3.3 million supports 13 rural health organizations to increase access to treatment and recovery services for opioid abuse under the Rural Health Opioid Program (RHOP) and the Substance Abuse Treatment Telehealth Network Grant Program (SAT -TNGP). The organizations will use these awards to advance evidence-based, opioid use disorder interventions to overcome challenges in rural communities, such as longer emergency response times and lack of access to substance abuse treatment providers. The new RHOP provides approximately $2.5 million for 10 rural health organizations in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Ohio, and Virginia to help community members struggling with opioid abuse find locally available treatment options and support services through partnerships with local health care providers and other community-based groups. The SAT –TNGP provides approximately $670,000 for three organizations to use evidence-based, telehealth programs and networks to improve access to substance abuse treatment in rural, frontier and underserved communities. For more information about the impact of integrating mental health and substance abuse services at the community level, and a list of FY 2017 AIMS award recipients, visit: https://bphc.hrsa.gov/programopportunities/fundingopportunities/aims/fy2017awards/index.html To view a list of the RHOP and the SAT –TNGP award recipients, visit: https://www.hrsa.gov/about/news/press-releases/2017/fy17-rural-opioid-awards.html To learn more about the Health Center Program, visit: http://bphc.hrsa.gov/about To find a health center in your area, visit: http://findahealthcenter.hr[...]



First HHS medical support team arrives in Florida Keys

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 - 16:45

A National Disaster Medical System team from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services became part of the first wave of federal responders transported today into the Florida Keys as part of the Trump Administration's government-wide efforts to provide relief to those affected by Hurricane Irma. The team will establish a mobile medical unit and begin providing medical care to assist a local hospital. National Disaster Medical System personnel from Hawaii loading a US Coast Guard aircraft with equipment and supplies to assist the state of Florida with public health and medical support in the Florida Keys. “The Florida Keys were particularly hard hit in this massive storm, and all current indicators are that the medical infrastructure is damaged and in some cases may be destroyed,” explained HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, M.D. “Our medical professionals are trained to provide care in austere conditions after disasters, and they’re arriving with the first wave of equipment and supplies they’ll need to help save lives.” Additional medical personnel could follow at the state’s request. In other areas of Florida, HHS dispatched NDMS and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps teams to assist local healthcare workers in caring for evacuees in six shelters. So far the teams have seen approximately 100 patients. In addition, HHS medical teams are providing care at a shelter in Puerto Rico and at an overwhelmed hospital emergency department in St. Thomas, and triaging evacuees from multiple islands as they reach Puerto Rico. The teams also embedded with Urban Search and Rescue to find dialysis patients and aided the U.S. Virgin Islands in evacuating these patients to Puerto Rico. These medical professionals are among the more than 675 personnel HHS deployed to support the emergency response in Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The remainder are providing response coordination, supporting emergency operations centers, or available for additional assignments from the states or U.S. territories. To help the effected states and U.S. territories respond to the health impacts of the storm, HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D., signed public health emergency declarations for Florida, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Georgia and South Carolina. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services subsequently provided waivers to health care providers and facilities so that Americans who rely on Medicare, Medicaid or the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP) could receive unimpeded care during the crisis.  HHS’s Administration for Children and Families (ACF) employees continue to coordinate with the Department of State and Department of Defense to evacuate American citizens from the island of St. Martin.  The ACF Office of Refugee Resettlement initiated repatriation efforts to ensure that Americans were safely transported back to American soil and out of harm’s way beginning Saturday evening.  A total of 1,694 repatriates have safely touched ground in Puerto Rico and eventually back to the continental United States. The Disaster Distress Helpline remains activated to aid people in coping with the behavioral health effects of the storm and help people in impacted areas connect with local behavioral health professionals. The helpline can be reached toll-free at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. Since Hurricane Irma made landfall, the helpline has assisted more than 170 callers from impacted areas. HHS also provided data to public health authorities in Florida to assist them in reaching Medicare beneficiaries who rely on electrically powered medical equipment at home. Power outages become life-or-death situations for people with these medical conditions. The Department remains committed to meeting the medical and public health needs of communities across t[...]



HHS, DoD rescue dialysis patients from U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma

Sunday, September 10, 2017 - 19:30

As part of the Trump Administration's government-wide efforts to provide relief to those affected by Hurricane Irma, personnel from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense have begun evacuating dialysis patients from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, due to the extensive damage to the health care infrastructure on St. Thomas. Disruptions in dialysis treatment can become life-threatening within two or three days.

Data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) indicate that more than 130 American dialysis patients make their home on St. Thomas. For the first time in the department’s history, HHS medical personnel also have embedded with Urban Search and Rescue teams attempting to find patients who did not respond to local authorities’ message about evacuating. These rescue and evacuation operations are complicated by hurricane damage, which brought down telephone lines and cell towers and has made roads impassable.

“People who rely on dialysis are among the most medically vulnerable after natural disasters, and given the extent of the destruction on St. Thomas, we are very concerned about the health and safety of dialysis patients there right now,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, M.D. “Our medical personnel and our agency partners are working as quickly as possible under grueling conditions to assist the territory in its life-saving efforts.”

HHS emergency managers also are working with territory agencies, dialysis facilities and other partners to arrange dialysis services and temporary shelter in San Juan for the evacuated patients. As patients arrive by plane, health care workers from the local dialysis network triage each patient and provide immediate dialysis or transport of the patient to the hospital if additional care is needed. Partners include Department of Defense, FEMA, CMS, the Quality Insights Renal Network 3 of CMS’ End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Network Program, and the Kidney Community Emergency Response (KCER) Program.

Data to support the evacuation came from the HHS emPOWER initiative and CMS systems. To aid in planning, emPOWER provides public health authorities with the total number of Medicare beneficiaries in a zip code who rely on 14 types of life-maintaining and assistive equipment, ranging from oxygen concentrators to electric wheelchairs, as well as data on the number of people who rely on dialysis, oxygen, and home health services. Specific information can be provided for life-saving efforts in a disaster.

Approximately 100 HHS medical personnel are deployed to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to aid in patient evacuation and to assist USVI doctors and nurses in providing medical care in a hospital emergency department in St. Thomas. Additional medical teams are positioned in Florida and prepared to provide medical care and public health support as needed by the state. As of Sunday morning, approximately 550 personnel were staged in Florida with additional teams and Federal Medical Stations on alert to deploy when and where requested.

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National Disaster Medical System personnel from California and Oregon aid in evacuating a dialysis patient from St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, to Puerto Rico for medical care




HHS continues buildup of medical support in Florida in preparation for Hurricane Irma landfall

Saturday, September 9, 2017 - 21:30

As part of the Trump Administration’s ongoing efforts to prepare for Hurricane Irma, HHS Secretary Tom Price briefed President Trump and the Cabinet this morning on the work of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in anticipation of Hurricane Irma making landfall, including moving more than 500 medical and related personnel into Orlando, Florida, to assist the state with medical and public health needs when Hurricane Irma makes landfall. HHS called in seven National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) teams, including community doctors and nurses from around the country, and two teams from U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, to be in place ready to respond when and where needed. The NDMS team members are deploying from Alabama, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. These teams join U.S. Public Health Service officers as well as NDMS medical personal already staged in Orlando from Tennessee, Alabama, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Hawaii. Additional medical teams are on alert to be called in as needed. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration activated the Disaster Distress Helpline, a toll-free call center, (1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746) to aid people in coping with the behavioral health effects of the storm and help people in impacted areas connect with local behavioral health professionals. HHS also provided data to public health authorities in Florida to assist them in reaching Medicare beneficiaries who rely on electrically powered medical equipment at home. Power outages become life-or-death situations for people with these medical conditions. HHS remains in regular contact with Florida health officials to maintain awareness of the local situation and stands ready to augment its support to the state as the situation unfolds. HHS medical teams are providing care at a hospital emergency department on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. HHS and the Department of Defense began evacuating dialysis patients from St. Thomas today, and HHS medical teams are accompanying Urban Search and Rescue teams in locating dialysis patients whom authorities were unable to reach in order to evacuate the patients. Earlier this week, Secretary  Price, declared public health emergencies for Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has provided blanket waivers to aid Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in receiving care unimpeded in the aftermath of the storm. The Department is committed to meeting the medical and public health needs of communities across the southeast impacted by Hurricane Irma in the immediate aftermath of the storm and as affected areas recover. Information on health safety tips during and after the hurricane will be provided by the Office of the Assistance Secretary for Preparedness and Response and will be available at www.PHE.gov/Irma.  Critical updates will also be available at: ASPR - @PHEgov HHS - @HHSgov CDC  - @CDCgov Secretary Tom Price, M.D. - @SecPriceMD [...]