FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2011
Contact: HHS Press Office
National Disaster Medical System teams return from Missouri tornado response
HHS agencies to provide ongoing support for communities impacted by the disaster
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) personnel from the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) began returning to their home states today after deploying to assist in mass fatality operations in the aftermath of a devastating tornado in Joplin, Mo. HHS will provide ongoing assistance with additional aspects of response and recovery.
NDMS, within the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, provides medical, victim identification, and veterinary personnel, equipment and supplies to augment state and local resources in disaster response. Similar to military reservists, NDMS personnel come from private sector jobs around the country to respond as intermittent federal employees during disasters. In the tornado response, the state of Missouri requested NDMS support in victim identification.
This response represents the largest number of NDMS mass fatality personnel deployed to a domestic disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. More than 100 personnel from NDMS Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams and Family Assistance Center Teams assisted the local coroner’s office in identifying victims of the tornado. This NDMS support for 24-hour efforts in Missouri helped the coroner’s office reunite all victims with their loved ones as quickly as possible in a dignified, respectful manner.
“We’re honored to help state and local authorities bring some sense of closure to the families who lost family members to this storm,” said Dr. Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response. “Although the situation in Joplin is still difficult, we’ve witnessed a tremendous amount of pride and resilience in the community. HHS will continue to work closely with state and local officials on the ongoing need for social services as the community recover.”
State, federal, and nonprofit partners are collaborating to meet the child care needs of Joplin families. The HHS Administration for Children and Families, in partnership with the Missouri Department of Social Services, convened a task force to address emergency child care needs as well as the recovery of the community's child care capacity. The tornado destroyed 19 child care centers with combined capacity to serve approximately 600 children.
The HHS Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is working with the state to bring the National Crisis Counseling Program to the impacted counties. The program supports short-term interventions to help disaster survivors in their recovery process. Immediately after the tornado, SAMHSA provided stress and grief materials to state and local agencies for use in counseling programs, primary care sites and other areas from which survivors are likely to seek help. With 20 of the area’s 25 mental health facilities destroyed, SAMHSA is also providing technical assistance to the state in restoring this behavioral health infrastructure.
To ensure that sufficient health care items and services are available to meet the needs of Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program beneficiaries in the affected area, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is monitoring the status of health care facilities. CMS will waive or modify certain federal requirements as necessary and in accordance with the law for these facilities, such as allowing critical access hospitals to take more than the statutorily mandated limit of 25 patients and not count the expected longer lengths of stay for evacuated patients against the 96-hour average.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is supporting the Joplin health department on restaurant inspections and on-going public health monitoring. CDC is also providing information on how to prevent illnesses and injuries as the community cleans up and clears debris from the tornado.
To ensure the safety of products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, the FDA worked last week with state and local health departments to complete inspections of food processing facilities and pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers that were located in the affected area.
For information on HHS support for response and recovery efforts in Missouri, visit www.phe.gov.
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Last revised: June 2, 2011