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By Cindy Munn, Quality Forum CEO
Nearly 11 years ago, we watched in horror from points across the globe as homes and businesses and entire neighborhoods in southeast Louisiana were swallowed by the floodwaters during and after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That disastrous event so frightened us that our state took a strong, proactive stance in disaster planning and recovery, but when the floodwaters again began to rise – this time in the Baton Rouge region – on Aug. 12, 2016, we were still frightened.
It seemed to us that history was repeating itself: thousands of families left homeless, businesses destroyed, images of heroic rescues by everyday citizens, National Guard soldiers and response vehicles taking up posts across the region, desperate attempts to locate loved ones among the many shelters throughout the area, declarations of disaster zones, the list goes on and on.
Yet there was one very big difference. We were more prepared this time in terms of our health care delivery strategy, or as prepared as any region can be in the wake of a tremendous disaster – here in Louisiana, where natural disasters like hurricanes and floods happen all too often, we know first-hand that those are things for which no one can ever be fully prepared. But we try.
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated our state’s coastal region, we took stock of the issues in Louisiana, and one of the biggest of those issues was our state’s dependence on paper medical records. Eleven years ago, that dependence left hundreds of thousands of our state’s residents without access to their medical information and led to significant gaps and delays in care. In response, our state took advantage of the availability of ARRA funds and federal grant dollars to build a system of connected health care founded in health IT,with the Louisiana Health Information Exchange (LaHIE) as its centerpiece.
While health IT cannot stop the floodwaters from rising and cannot rebuild neighborhoods and businesses, it most certainly can – and does – save lives. LaHIE, in times of disaster, ensures that the health information of those forced to seek shelter in a designated facility is available to the health care providers who care for them. It ensures that patients who have opted into LaHIE are able to share information about their medical diagnoses, medications, test results and other critical data with their doctors and emergency responders.
These families have lost their homes, but they have not lost their health information. While that may not sound like much, it is comforting… Just ask those who survived Katrina and endured delayed treatment for their injuries and chronic conditions because their medical records were under 10 feet of water in New Orleans.
Yet that isn’t the only comfort we’ve found in the course of this latest disaster. We’ve found comfort in the arms of the Cajun Navy, an amazing group of men and women across the state who loaded up their personal watercraft and came to our rescue without ever being asked to do so. We’ve found strength in the many families, churches and businesses who have opened their doors to strangers, welcomed them and given them food and shelter in this time of need. We’ve found hope in the donations of supplies and monies that have begun to arrive in our beautiful state from across the country. We’ve found inspiration in the bravery of our state’s first responders, emergency personnel and law enforcement – men and women who selflessly gave their time and effort to help us all.
That comfort, strength, hope and inspiration give us courage for what comes next: the recovery. And we will recover. We will rebuild. We will learn and improve. We are Louisiana.
And we are Louisiana strong.
Editor’s Note: There are a number of resources available to those whose homes, businesses and/or properties were lost or damaged during the Flood of 2016. We are pleased to share this information here for those who may need it. Additional resources are welcome. Please contact Jamie Martin firstname.lastname@example.org to provide that information.
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FEMA: 1-800-621-3362 or click here
DSNAP Food Stamps: 1-888-524-3578 or click here
Louisiana Department of Insurance: 1-800-259-5300 or (225) 342-1258
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Food and shelter are being offered at the following locations. Please note that this information is subject to change at any time.
- Lamar Dixon Expo Center (allows pets and livestock)
- North Corbin Junior High, 32725 N. Corbin Rd., Walker
- River Center in downtown Baton Rouge
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The following locations are serving food.
- Healing Place Church, 4829 Winbourne Ave., Baton Rouge, and 569 Florida Ave. SW, Denham Springs
- Bethany, 11107 Honore Lane, Baton Rouge
- St. Jude, 9150 Highland Road, Baton Rouge
- Tyson Foods (beginning Sat., Aug. 20), Cortana Mall, 9401 Cortana Place, Baton Rouge
- Sherwood South Animal Hospital on S. Sherwood Forest Blvd. is providing shelter for pets. Veterinarians are on hand to provide care. For information, call (225) 293-6440.
- BR Animal Control, 2680 Progress Road in Baton Rouge, is serving as an animal shelter.
- A mobile pet shelter has been set up at the Baton Rouge River Center, 275 S. River Road.