October 19, 2018 - Hurricane Michael made landfall last Wednesday morning as a Category 4 hurricane, making it the most powerful hurricane that the Florida panhandle has ever faced and the third strongest hurricane to ever hit Florida. By Friday, the storm had dissipated off the Atlantic Coast, having passed through Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, in areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence. This storm was different from Florence in that it did not waste time lingering over the initially impacted areas, causing torrential downpours and dangerous levels of flooding. Instead, Michael sped through about a thousand miles of land in a couple of days bringing some of the most destructive winds that the Southeast has ever seen. Michael wiped away entire homes and businesses in the Florida panhandle and other coastal communities.
Our hotline has been busy with patients looking for guidance on refilling their prescriptions in the wake of the hurricane. We have read and listened to some heartbreaking stories. Patients will mention almost in passing that their home has been destroyed, because before they can focus on how to recover from this loss, they must tend to more pressing health needs. Something as seemingly simple as trying to take a pill every day can feel like an insurmountable challenge during a disaster. Right now, there are countless Floridians without their necessary medications, often because they need to refill prescriptions for controlled substances with tight regulations. People in the panhandle have doctors and pharmacists who are dealing with the same structural damages as the rest of the community. If someone is displaced and cannot return to their home pharmacy or doctor’s office, they have to jump through hoops to get their meds.
Where Florence brought devastating flooding, Michael has brought devastating winds – winds just shy of Category 5 strength when the storm crashed into Florida. The healthcare supply chain was put under a different test. Our distributor partners, at AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson worked tirelessly to ensure that critical deliveries of medical supplies were not disrupted during the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, and they have been doing so successfully. In turn, the public health response has focused more on supporting shelters that at one point were holding thousands of displaced citizens that no longer had homes, let alone access to their neighborhood. Not only that, we are focusing on the multiple impacted clinics and pharmacies that have lost portions of their inventories along with the facilities that have suffered structural damages that might prevent them from operating for weeks.
We’ve worked day and night for over a week with our partners to meet these needs. Most recently, Optum Rx fulfilled a request we received for hundreds of doses of Naloxone for a shelter distribution center in Tallahassee, Florida. Late Saturday night, Uber offered to cover individual rides for a group of stranded patients in need of dialysis treatment at a facility over an hour away from their homes. At least three hospitals received full communications restorations from Sprint. Partners at Centene, BIO and PhRMA, amongst others, are standing by with generous offers, anxious to respond to whatever requests we throw their way. For that we are grateful for the many partnerships that fuel our mission, as well as the support of our members and supporters.
We have made several resources for patients and those supporting the healthcare system available on our Hurricane Michael emergency page and the accompanying Medications page. Rx Open provides pharmacy status and is activated for FL, GA, SC, NC, MS, AL, and VA. The Rx Open site also features a SAMHSA locator widget, that can be used to locate mental health facilities near you. If you need any additional support, please contact us or call our hotline at 1.866.247.2694. Our support team is activated and ready to help.