US Health and Human Services secretary declares public health emergency for Hawai‘i in response to wildfires
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra has declared a public health emergency for Hawai‘i to address the health impacts of the ongoing wildfires.
The declaration follows President Joe Biden’s major disaster declaration and gives Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services health care providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.
“We will do all we can to assist Hawai‘i officials with responding to the health impacts of the wildfires,” said Becerra. “We are working closely with state and local health authorities, as well as our partners across the federal government, and stand ready to provide additional public health and medical support.”
Health and Human Services Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response has deployed disaster response personnel from the National Disaster Medical System to Hawai‘i to address the health impacts of the wildfires.
An initial team of 13 responders was deployed to support response efforts. Responders include an assessment team from the National Disaster Medical System Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team and other public health response personnel.
The experienced mortuary specialists on the team, along with regional response staff, are providing support throughout the state. The Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response stands ready to deploy additional personnel as needed.
“The deadly wildfires that have impacted Maui this week have brought untold destruction and loss to the island,” said Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell. “We are committed to supporting the people of Hawai‘i during this difficult time.”
Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team personnel are working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response Regional Emergency Coordinators, state health authorities and emergency response officials to determine if any additional federal public health and medical resources might be needed to aid in responding to wildfires.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sharing post-wildfire and power outage safety information as well as standing by to provide additional public health support if needed.
The Disaster Distress Helpline, sponsored by the Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-985-5990, can provide immediate counseling to anyone affected by the wildfires.
Counselors are trained to offer support to people who might be experiencing a range of symptoms. Callers can connect with counselors in more than 100 languages; a videophone option is available to support the deaf or hard-of-hearing.
Additional information about the Health and Human Services Department response to the wildfires can be found online.