In the face of the devastating historic storms striking several U.S. states and Caribbean islands, and catastrophic earthquake damage in Mexico, the Diabetes Community is stepping up to make a difference for those hit hard.
Throughout social media, hundreds of posts are appearing with both pleas for help, and offers to assist, from all over the country and world. From grassroots efforts by individuals trying to help their neighbors, to large-scale programs being coordinated by bigger diabetes organizations and companies, the stories of relief efforts are remarkable.
With continued assistance needed in the Gulf Coast region, in southeastern states and in the hard-hit Caribbean islands that include Puerto Rico, more of these stories and relief efforts are under way.
Texas D-Mom Haley Strahan, whose type 1 daughter had extra insulin and supplies on hand, immediately wanted to help when things started getting ugly for Houston. They live in a southeast area near Louisiana that wasn't hit hard in those first days of the storm, so her family wanted to do what they could, while they could.
Haley's younger brother loaded his boat with a cooler full of insulin and headed to Houston. He didn't have a specific plan, but just wanted to reach anyone in the D-Community who might be stranded and in need of emergency insulin.
"We just couldn't do nothing," Haley says. "He just brought his boat to go help rescue and I sent some insulin and supplies along after I saw several posts saying people were without."
That's the kind of spirit being shown in the face of this natural disaster, the worst on record for Texas that's dropping an overwhelming amount of rain and wreaking havoc on the country's fourth largest city and surrounding areas, in Texas and Louisiana along the Gulf Coast. Thousands are being rescued as the storm circulates and re-energizes, and the news reports are harrowing as the number of people stranded -- and losing their lives - are creeping higher.
In the Greater Houston area, D-Mom Angela Buentello has also been organizing relief efforts for those nearby. The high school across the street opened its doors as a shelter, and when her husband and son walked over to donate hygiene items and clothes, they saw more than 500 people jam-packed inside, with a few-thousand more expected in the coming days. Only one doctor was on call for a number of children and adults with diabetes and the supplies were limited, but Angela says donations from around the T1D community were quickly en route. A local OmniPod rep actually had an airboat helping transport supplies that had been delivered to a neighboring town from all across the U.S.
"That's how we come together, and it truly is amazing," Angela wrote to us on Monday. "This evening, I met another T1 mom in the neighborhood across who offered up her spare supplies for another T1 kid at the shelter. People are amazing. It's just a matter of knowing how to find them."
Angela tells us they have a hub in Katy, TX which serves as the operational base of the Texas National Guard, and they've agreed to take diabetes-related donations of insulin to all of the evacuation shelters there. Meanwhile, her father is a first responder in a suburb of Metro Houston and her step-dad is on emergency services for Rockport in southern Houston, and both have arranged for insulin to be delivered to those local shelters. Those efforts are being organized largely by word of mouth and a Facebook diabetes group.
Kelley Champ Crumpler, a diabetes educator north of Houston and type 1 herself for more than 25 years, has been leading a strong grassroots effort to help those PWDs affected by Harvey.
Longtime type 1 and well-respected endo and author Dr. Stephen Ponder is also helping as much as he can, working with Kelley to get needed supplies her way. He's driving car-loads of supplies that he's received at his Central Texas clinic to her office, with an initial drive on Wednesday, and another planned over the weekend.
While she coordinates that collection and distribution network from people across the country (more on that below), Kelley's fiancé Heith Higgins is also stepping up. On Monday, he responded to a Facebook plea from a woman to help her 19-year-old son who hadn't had access to any Novolog or Lantus in 24+ hours. Heith braved flooding, closed streets and pandemonium to drive an hour (but only 12 miles!) in order to get emergency insulin to that young man.
She also tells us stories of one stranded mom who only had enough insulin and meter supplies to last her son a couple of days, while another adult son called her about his evacuated mom who wears a pump and doesn't have anything but the insulin inside the single OmniPod pod she's wearing now. Because clinics are largely closed in Houston, the pharmacy wasn't able to get a doctor's prescription, which led to even more frustration.
"Families feel helpless and have lost supplies, insulin and in some instances, the entire contents of their homes," Kelley says. "Many of us are collecting supplies, donations and monetary donations for these families."
Relief Efforts from the Diabetes Community
There is of course an evolving list of activities, but here are some of the major efforts we've learned of:
From Individuals and Advocacy Orgs -
D-eeducator Kelley Champ Crumpler: The above-mentioned T1 and clinical specialist just outside of Houston and her fiancé have opened up their home as a disaster donation relief center for T1D families who’ve lost everything. Kelley shares that she’s been getting calls and expects donations from Hawaii, Nebraska, Florida and Tennessee among other places. She's working with another diabetes advocate, D-Mom Anne Imber, there locally.
She’s also working with the D-Community at large, including a network of doctors and educators nationally and locally that include Anne Imber in Texas. In addition to well-known pediatric endo Dr. Stephen Ponder, others pitching in include Ethan Lewis, T1D founder of Transcend Foods, who is donating a large shipment of their glucose gels and granola bars; and the new Betes Bros Foundation in Oklahoma that is collecting supplies and planning to deliver to Kelley’s home in the coming week.
Kelley's group is collecting: syringes, pen needles, alcohol wipes, medical adhesive tape, CGM supplies, insulin vials and pens (subject to change), glucagon, glucose tabs and gel, fruit snacks, meters, test strips, and lancets -- as well as latex gloves, Clorox wipes, towels, blankets, socks, shoes, clothes, diapers, formula, dog food and bowls. The group noted late Tuesday that they've received enough insulin pump supplies and insulin, at least for now. Even more pressing for those left without any possessions may be gift cards to HEB, Walmart and Target, even for just $5. Donations are accepted via Venmo and PayPal, or their disaster relief crowdfunding effort.
Supply donations can be sent to:
On Sept. 7, the T1 Team Texas group announced they'd started a new relief program for those individuals with T1D affected by Harvey, while those with T2 diabetes are encouraged to contact the bigger orgs' programs for relief.
American Diabetes Association, JDRF and Insulin For Life USA:
The country's two biggest diabetes orgs -- ADA and JDRF -- were quick to announce a partnership on a Harvey relief effort early in the week after Harvey made landfall, and a follow-on press release issued Aug. 29 night announced more detail that included their partnership with the Florida-based non-profit Insulin for Life USA. That has since expanded into what's being called the Diabetes Emergency Relief Coalition (DERC), made up of the American Association of Diabetes Educators, Endocrine Society, American Association of Clinical Endos, and the medical research non-profit group Research America.
Together with the Project Blue November group, this coaltion is shipping more than 6,750 pounds of supplies to the Houston, Galveston, Harris County and Corpus Christi communities during the first week following the storm; more is being sent to Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in the near future.
- In the first wave with a total 3,000 pounds of supplies -- five pallets are already en route to Houston, each of which includes: 200,000 syringes, 50,000 pen needles and 20,000 alcohol pads.
- Accompanying each pallet are separate packages containing dozens of blood glucose meters along with thousands of glucose test strips and lancets.
- More than 25,000 units of analogue and human insulins, in both vial and pen forms, will also be delivered, pending safe and temperature-controlled conditions at the locations.
- On Aug. 31, the orgs sent an additional 3,000 pounds of supplies with the same tallies as above.
- On Sept. 2, the organizations updated their relief effort information -- especially after coordinating more with other groups such as Insulin For Life USA, the AADE, and others in the diabetes space.
Their 1-800-DIABETES hotline will have extended phone hours, and given the expanding needs of Hurricane Irma and the continuing needs of the Southeast Texas region, the coalition has started a new call center for physicians and health care providers requesting D-supplies: 1-314-INSULIN. The supply request line will be open and staffed daily by members of the DERC beginning Friday, September 8, from 9:00 a.m. ET to 6:00 p.m. ET.
Please check diabetes.org/hurricanerelief for the latest information, with regular updates and resources that include the Red Cross’ live map of open shelters; tips for how to advocate for yourself or a loved one with diabetes; recommendations on how to help someone with diabetes and signs of a diabetes emergency for caregivers and emergency personnel; a list of open pharmacies; and additional resources from partners on how to access or donate supplies and/or medications.
Information and resources include -
- How to donate diabetes supplies to Insulin for Life
- Live map of open shelters from the American Red Cross, or 1-800-733-2767
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and federal aid programs for Texas residents
- Department of HHS support services, HHS Disaster Distress Line 1-800-985-5990
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hurricane resources
- Link to list of open pharmacies in the Houston area
- Texas Health and Human Services – call 211 for assistance
- The Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies has a hotline, 1-800-626-4949, to help people with disabilities and the elderly to safety and provide immediate needs of durable medical equipment and supplies
- AmeriCares is providing emergency support and services
- List of Texas food banks
- South Texas Blood and Tissue Center – to find a South Texas location to donate blood, call 210-731-5590
- American Red Cross – for nationwide locations to donate blood or platelets
Donations for Insulin For Life USA can be sent directly to the organization, based on information found online here.
Beyond Type 1: This California non-profit organization has published resources for ways to help those in Mexico and Puerto Rico. We've also many of the above-noted relief efforts are also expanding and mobilizing to help those with diabetes affected in areas outside the mainland United States.
From Insulin Manufacturers -
Eli Lilly: This company's Senior Director of Corporate Responsibility Rob Smith wrote a blog post on Monday that outlined relief efforts for insulin users, specifically:
- If your insulin or other Lilly medicine has been damaged or destroyed by the storm, you can talk to your pharmacy about getting a new 30-day supply. Many insurance plans have “disaster overrides” that allow you to replace your destroyed medicine for the cost of a co-pay. If you don’t have a disaster override, Lilly will provide you with a new 30-day supply at no charge. And if you have a high-deductible plan that normally requires you to pay the full price for your treatment, you will receive a 30-day supply at no charge if your medicine is destroyed.
- The Lilly Answers Center can offer more assistance at (800) 545-5979.
- Spokesman Greg Kueterman tells us: “We donated 700 vials of insulin through Direct Relief. As of (Tuesday 8/29) morning, approximately 20% of the kits had made their way into the system, and others are in process. We also donated glucagon kits and some non-diabetes medicines, such as Zyprexa and Prozac.
- Kueterman added: “The calls from patients into our call center have been very minimal; one patient needed access to a medicine and that request was resolved. A few other patients had questions about storage. We’ve been communicating regularly with support on the ground, such as Direct Relief, physicians, distributors, and other local officials. This is a quickly evolving situation and we will continue monitoring closely to determine if we need to address other needs.”
- In that first wave, Direct Relief told Lilly that the vast majority of donated insulin was deployed into the Gulf Coast areas hit by Hurricane Harvey and is reaching people in shelters and other areas of need. With Hurricane Irma inching toward the US, Lilly says insulin's also been pre-positioned along the East Coast and the company's monitoring the storm closely to determine additional needs in the days and weeks ahead.
- On Sept. 11, Lilly offered an update on its relief efforts specific to Irma. That included 10,000 vials of insulin, as well as $200,000 to the American Red Cross and $50,000 to Direct Relief International.
- Lilly Diabetes reports that on Sept. 24, it sent insulin and supplies directly to Puerto Rico and those areas devastated by Hurricane Maria. Specifically, Lilly has had operations in PR since 1965, including an affiliate, two manufacturing sites, and a small sales force -- all encompassing 1,000 who call the island home. Lilly responded to request from Puerto Rico's Department of Health for emergency medical items and sent a plane-full of insulin and supplies there, incuding 2400 insulin vials and pens allowing 1,000 people to be treated for 30 days, as well as glucagon, food, water, batteries, generators and diapers.
Novo Nordisk: On Tuesday, the company issued a blog post about its relief efforts with the title, "Our Hearts are With Houston," specifying:
- Insulin is being donated (no details on amounts), and this disaster-relief is being managed by AmeriCares; all inquiries from non-profit organizations should be directed to AmeriCares at 800-486-HELP.
- The company will also provide relief to impacted employees in the form of time off, product assistance, household relief and financial assistance as necessary for clothing, food and other items.
- Novo plans to match employee contributions to the American Red Cross and is pledging $150,000 to the local Houston Health Foundation.
- Spokesman Ken Inchausti tells us Novo has a unique connection to Houston, in that it is the only city in the U.S. participating in the company's Cities Changing Diabetes program focused on local diabetes care and prevention. Novo has reps and coalition organization members on the ground, and we’re told everyone has been safely accounted for there in Houston.
- Novo continues its relief work, donating needed insulin and supplies to those in Puerto Rico and the Carribbean islands through the Americares efforts.
Sanofi: Spokeswoman Susan Brooks provided this statement:
“Sanofi has long-standing relationships with non-government organizations, such as Direct Relief and AmeriCares, and coordinated with them quickly once it became clear that the anticipated storms in Texas would likely be very serious. Fortunately, Sanofi insulin products, as well as other necessary medications, were already prepositioned in the affected areas in Texas, so patients in need were able to access these products quickly. We are in close contact with our partners, and should additional product be needed, we will coordinate with them to ensure access to as many patients as possible. In addition, Sanofi is implementing a special matching gift campaign with our employees to benefit the American Red Cross.”
"Direct Relief and AmeriCares formally request product for their disaster preparedness programs based on their historical response needs. They determine what product and how much of each product are typically needed for U.S. disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, etc. and Sanofi usually donates 100% of their requests as the product gets to the patient more quickly through these programs.”
"To date, Sanofi has not received requests for any more product; this is very typical, as needs assessment can take a few days after the storms so we are anticipating more product requests in the coming days."
MannKind Corp: The California company that makes inhaled insulin Afrezza announced it's donating 27,000 cartridges of Afrezza. It will be sent to Insulin For Life, which has become a key organization along with ADA and JDRF in shipping diabetes supplies and medication to those affected by Harvey, Irma and the subsequent hurricanes and natural disasters.
From Device and Supply Companies -
Abbott: Donating $1 million in grants and healthcare products, which builds on efforts earlier in the year as part of Abbott's hurricane season prep. Specifically, the company and its foundation (the Abbott Fund) are providing $900,000 in grants to the American Red Cross, AmeriCares and Direct Relief – the three big orgs working on relief efforts – and $100,000 in healthcare and nutrition products to various relief orgs responding to the catastrophe, with on-the-ground support in affected communities. See this full news release on their efforts.
Medtronic: Has a storm hotline at (800) 646-4633 ext. 64545. More information is here, for those who need help getting insulin pump, CGM or related diabetes supplies and medication.
Insulet: "(Our) thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Insulet has provided outreach via social media... to please encourage any Podders needing supplies to call our Customer Care Team at 800-591-3455. Our local representatives in those areas will also have additional supplies."
JnJ: "In a first wave of response to the devastating floods as a result of Hurricane Harvey, LifeScan provided approximately 9,500 OneTouch meters and 352,400 test strips via Direct Relief. JnJ Diabetes is also providing a list of clinics to the ADA and AADE for publishing on those organizations’ websites so that patients can determine where to access needed diabetes supplies. JnJ is also providing basic hygiene kits as well as medicines and trauma products to help frontline healthcare workers and those who have been displaced or otherwise affected by the storm, and will continue to engage with these organizations to provide support through the rest of the storm and its aftermath."
Ascensia Diabetes: Spokesman Joseph Delahunty says the company has donated more than 725lbs of products to victims of Hurricane Harvey, including 750 Contour meters, 2,000 vials of test strips (100,000 strips in total) and 700 cartons of lancets. All have gone to to Insulin For Life USA. "We are also keeping an eye on the situation with Irma to see whether any relief efforts are required."
Roche Diabetes Care: Spokeswoman Anne Gille says, "Our thoughts are with everyone in Texas affected by the terrible devastation of Hurricane Harvey. To help support in the recovery, Roche Diabetes Care is providing a donation to the American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey. In addition, we are actively exploring ways to support those in need of diabetes supplies in the area. If our employees would like to personally contribute in the relief effort, Roche offers a $1 for $1 match up to $500 as part of our Roche Gives Back program."
AACE Disaster Prep: Generally, the American Association of Clinical Endos (AACE) has published a "disaster preparation" card to help people with diabetes prep for storms and disasters.
Online Peer Support: We've also seen other grassroots efforts like a public group on Facebook called Hurricane Harvey 2017 -- People Who Need Medical Supplies and Devices. It has roughly 100 members in just the first days of being created, and people are collaborating on best ways to get needed supplies to those impacted by Harvey.
Know of any other resources available for those in our D-Community? Please share in the comments section below or let us know via email at [email protected].
Our hearts too are with all affected by Harvey and Irma (and Jose afterward), and we'll continue to do what we can to help spread the word on disaster relief efforts!