FODAC plans third trip to Puerto Rico

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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

TUCKER, Ga. – It may be closing in on the one-year mark since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, but relief efforts there are still front and center for FODAC, an organization based here that provides refurbished and donated HME, especially mobility products, to disabled adults and children.

In July, FODAC was putting together another container of HME to send to the island, likely this fall.

“They needed help before the hurricane, with 1-3 year wait times for kids getting equipment,” said Chris Brand, president and CEO. “The hurricane stopped everything from happening, including delivery via normal channels.”

FODAC has already sent HME valued at $177,000 to not only Puerto Rico, but also Saint Croix, thanks in part to donations from manufacturers like Drive Medical and MK Battery.

Brand has already made two trips to Puerto Rico and Saint Croix, shortly after the hurricane hit in December 2017 and again this past April. He plans to make another trip once the new container has been shipped.

“When a disaster happens in the landlocked U.S., donations and goodwill pour in, but when you have to rely on airplanes, it’s more difficult,” he said. “When we were in Saint Croix, FEMA told us if you can get down here, we’ll set you up in a hotel, which was a cruise ship. They needed us to go to homes to bring equipment. They gave us a van and a driver. We’d head out every morning with a list of names and addresses.”

In Puerto Rico, where there are more partner resources, FODAC’s focus has shifted to helping to create a reuse network that can be used and promoted in the event of emergencies like a hurricane, Brand said.

“Some of these partners have never seen or talked to each other,” he said. “So we’re getting them all together and connecting them.”

Additionally, FODAC’s longer play is trying to work with FEMA and CMS to create policies that make it easier for those partner resources, including HME providers, to do their jobs in an emergency, Brand says.

“We have complained on behalf of a provider on the island not being able to provide any services,” he said.  “They said they couldn’t get back up and running because they had too much property damage. We advocated to the powers at be that they have to be up and running, and to do that, they need to be reimbursed before providing any more equipment.”