Seven Months Post-Hurricane, FODAC Finds Puerto Rico Still Lagging in Recovery Efforts, Especially for the Disabled

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Seven Months Post-Hurricane, FODAC Finds Puerto Rico Still Lagging in Recovery Efforts, Especially for the Disabled

 

            President and CEO Chris Brand tours island, meets with partners and residents to assess ongoing needs, assist with distribution of medical equipment and supplies

 

Tucker GA – (14 June 2018) –   Seven months after hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico with a devastating double punch, almost one-third of the island’s 1.5 million electricity customers remain without power or appropriate shelter, most of them in rural or remote areas. For those with disabilities or other medical challenges, recovery from the storms has been even more difficult. Chris Brand, president and CEO of Georgia’s Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (FODAC), spent time on the island after the storms to help coordinate distribution of durable medical equipment (DME), like wheelchairs, crutches and other mobility aids, and recently returned there for a week-long tour to view the recovery for himself and help distribute additional DME and other supplies in remote communities.

 

“Seven months after the storms, so much of the island is still in dire need,” said Brand. “Many people are still living from day to day without power, running water, and with little food in homes that are barely habitable. Many people living in rural or remote areas can’t afford gas for their generators, especially problematic when they need to keep oxygen machines operating or vital medicines like insulin refrigerated. I went back to Puerto Rico to see for myself the conditions, and see how we could work with FEMA and local partners to help these residents recover the lives they led before last September.”

 

Brand returned to Puerto Rico in April, arriving first in San Juan, where he made contact with representatives from FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination (ODIC), the Renance of Condado, Programa de Asistencia Tecnológica de Puerto Rico (PRATP), Movimiento para el Alcance de Vida Independiente (MAVI) Puerto Rico, Lift Non-Profit Logistics, and the Rotary Club of San Juan. Brand had first worked with these organizations, along with FEMA representatives, to send equipment. Now he had reunited with his associates to deliver equipment into the most remote and sometimes most dangerous areas of Puerto Rico.

 

Each day of the week-long mission, Brand was up before dawn and returning after midnight. He and his colleagues travelled into the remote villages and settlements, troubled areas before the disaster but now, without basic utilities and no employment, even more desperate with residents fearful of gang violence and crime sprees. Brand and his colleagues were accompanied on their journeys at times by a police escort in order to connect safely with those residents in need. While the Puerto Rican National Guard was still distributing food and water into these areas, HME, donated through private resources like FODAC, was very difficult to be delivered into some areas because of the severe road conditions.

 

“Every day during this trip I met with survivors under the worst conditions yet I was constantly moved by their spirit and faith,” said Brand. “Seeing the areas first-hand and talking to the residents in person helped us understand better how to support our partners in their efforts. We also had the ability to help some of these most desperate patients immediately.”

 

Some of the residents helped by Brand and his group include:

 

 

 

Sadly, Brand and his group reached some residents too late to provide anything but spiritual comfort in their final hours. On their way to meet a family that needed a long-awaited hospital bed, they were met by the woman’s family and asked to join them in prayer by her bedside during her final hours.

 

“These citizens who are suffering are part of America,” continued Brand. “The infrastructure of the island has been destroyed and getting the necessary equipment into the hands of those who need it must be a priority.”

 

Brand believes that it will be years before the Puerto Rican infrastructure will be restored. FEMA has already invested $10 billion in the island’s recovery but he is concerned how much can be accomplished before the June 1 start of the 2018 hurricane season. FODAC has coordinated the delivery of over $175,000 worth of HME to Puerto Rico but the need is still great for manpower and vehicles to distribute it.

 

“Our goal is to build a network here to distribute the equipment, collect more gently used equipment and connect people with resources,” stated Brand. “At this point, we want to strengthen the local organizations by building effective partnerships, to empower the local groups to take up the mission.”

 

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About FODAC

Now celebrating its 31st anniversary, Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (FODAC) continues to help people with injuries and disabilities of all ages regain their mobility, independence and quality of life. The non-profit organization provides more than $10 million annually in refurbished durable medical equipment (DME) and home modifications in Georgia and across the United States, all at little or no cost to the recipients. A pioneer in re-use, FODAC keeps 350 tons of materials out of landfills each year by refurbishing and reissuing over 700 DME items every month, and is recognized nationally for best practices. In 2014, FODAC was named to Charities Under 5% Overhead, an organization of charities that have operating overhead of five percent or less.

 

In 2013, Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) appointed FODAC to serve as the statewide distributor of DME and assistive technology in the event of a large population-affecting emergency situation. In this role, FODAC will warehouse the DME and other equipment, then, working with GEMA and the American Red Cross (ARC) of Georgia, will coordinate the delivery and distribution to emergency shelters around the state.

 

In 2016, Healthcare Quality Association on Accreditation (HQAA) fully accredited FODAC as a durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies (DMEPOS) provider, thus confirming the organization’s compliance with quality standards established in the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act.

 

For more information on FODAC and its programs, visit fodac.org. Follow FODAC on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

 

 

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