As Hurricane Florence makes landfall in North Carolina, we know that people with disabilities and older adults may face unique challenges as they prepare for and recover from the storm. ACL staff are standing by to assist all of our grantees in affected areas, and we will check in periodically to get your assessment of the situation in your areas.
FEMA has prepared a Hurricane Florence page with important resources and updates. The FEMA Helpline can answer questions about the help offered by FEMA and how to apply for assistance. Call 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET, 7 days a week:
- 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362)
- TTY 1-800-462-7585
- 711 or VRS 1-800-621-3362
The Southeast ADA Center has created a Hurricane Florence page with national and local resources, including social media accounts for updates and resources to find shelters.
Yesterday, HHS' Office for Civil Rights issued guidance to help ensure equal access to emergency services. The guidance highlights practices that emergency responders and officials should consider adopting.
HHS Secretary Alex M. Azar declared public health emergencies in North Carolina and South Carolina on Tuesday, Sept. 11. The declarations give Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and their healthcare providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has also taken the following actions in light of Hurricane Florence:
- CMS temporarily suspended certain requirements necessary for Medicare beneficiaries who have lost or realized damage to their durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies as a result of the hurricane. This will help to make sure that beneficiaries can continue to access the needed medical equipment and supplies they rely on each day. Medicare beneficiaries can contact 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) for assistance.
- CMS has made available special enrollment periods for all Medicare beneficiaries and certain individuals seeking health plans offered through the Federal Health Insurance Exchange. This gives people impacted by the hurricane the opportunity to change their Medicare health and prescription drug plans and gain access to health coverage on the Exchange immediately if eligible for the special enrollment period. Learn more (PDF).
- CMS has developed an inventory of Medicaid and CHIP flexibilities and authorities available to states in the event of a disaster.
- CMS is helping patients obtain access to critical life-saving services. The Kidney Community Emergency Response (KCER) program has been activated ahead of the storm and is working with the End Stage Renal Disease Network of the South Atlantic, ESRD NW 6, to assess the status of dialysis facilities in the potentially impacted areas related to generators, alternate water supplies, education and materials for patients, and more. They are also assisting patients who have evacuated ahead of the storm to receive dialysis services in the location to which they are evacuating. The ESRD NW toll-free hotline is 800-524-7139 and the KCER hotline is 866-901-3773. Additional information is available on the KCER website www.kcercoalition.com.
Last year, ACL's Independent Living Administration released guidance for Centers for Independent Living on allowable Title VII disaster response and emergency relief efforts for people with disabilities.
Finally, the SAMHSA Distress Helpline provides 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters. To connect with a trained crisis counselor call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 (Spanish-speakers can text Hablanos to 66746).
Even if you are not in an area impacted by Hurricane Florence, it is never too early to plan ahead for the possibility of a natural disaster or other emergency. For National Preparedness Month, ACL has compiled emergency planning resources for older adults, people with disabilities, community-based organizations.