Poughkeepsie. . . Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus has directed the County’s Health and Human Services Cabinet and Emergency Response Department to convene and ensure the necessary support systems are in place to provide assistance to any evacuees who may come to the area from the three states impacted by one of the nation’s worst natural disasters, Hurricane Katrina.
The American Red Cross has been identified and recognized as the lead agency nationwide to handle first response for evacuees coming into an area, such as immediate housing and financial assistance to meet basic needs. For ongoing countywide coordination, other community-based organizations in Dutchess County such as Families First of NY, Dutchess County BOCES, Hudson River Housing, United Way of Dutchess County, the Community Foundation, and others have offered to work closely with Red Cross and county government.
At the County Executive’s direction and under the oversight of Betsy Brockway, Director of the Health and Human Services Cabinet, county departments have met already and put in place several measures:
- The Department of Mental Hygiene’s Trauma Team is working hand in hand with D.C. American Red Cross Chapter in processing Katrina evacuees to provide mental health services. The County’s Mental Hygiene Helpline number is 845-485-9700.
- The Department of Health has contacted local hospital emergency rooms and medical groups with relevant health information. The County’s website is being updated to provide direct linkage to significant websites such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Key health department phone numbers are 845-486-3409 for immunization questions, and 845-486-3402 for Communicable Disease questions. The Health Department is also providing tetanus shots for organized volunteers traveling to the Gulf States to aid in the recovery.
- The Department of Social Services is authorized by the state to waive the 90-day approval period for Medicaid benefits for families who qualify for eligibility under “Katrina refugee status”. Some documentation requirements may also be able to be relaxed. Please call 845-486-3000 and ask for information on “Katrina” related assistance.
- The Health and Human Services Cabinet and D.C. Red Cross are planning additional follow-up response meetings over coming days to identify further service coordination needs.
- As emergency preparedness protocols dictate, our Emergency Response Department is “On Stand by” call for FEMA and the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO).
It is currently unknown how many evacuees will be in need of services within Dutchess County.
County residents wishing to volunteer for the response efforts are recommended to contact the Dutchess County Red Cross at 845-471-0200, ext. 313, or residents wishing information on cash donations please visit the American Red Cross website at www.redcross.org.