gettyimages 130636481 When disasters hit, the VA takes the drugstore on the road

Prescription pill bottles are displayed during a press preview of an auction of the personal effects of Dr. Jack Kevorkian at the New York Institute of Technology on October 27, 2011 in New York City. ( Mario Tama/Getty Images)

By Jonathan Kaupanger

Rising water isn’t the only problem people are facing in the Gulf Coast area. Toxins from the area’s many chemical plants have been released into the air and water. Houston is already the mold and mosquito capital of the US, all this water is only going to exacerbate the situation. The close contact in the shelters will make infectious diseases, like the norovirus, spike soon.

But what happens to veterans there who already are dealing with an illness? The VA has a plan to help, with the medication side of things at least. The Pharmacy Disaster Relief Plan has been activated. This allows people with a VA ID card to take either a written prescription or an active VA prescription bottle to any CVS or HEB pharmacy to receive a 14-day supply of medication. However, controlled medications will not be processed with this program.

That’s great if you can get to a pharmacy, but when there’s water up to the roof of your house, driving around the streets looking for an open store is unsafe and in many cases, impossible. But the VA has something to take care of this as well.

After hurricanes Katrina and Rita damaged medical centers on the Gulf Coast, VA realized it had to come up with a different way of getting medication to veterans. The first mobile pharmacy was created in 2007 and the VA started deploying the first three of these semi-tractor-trailers to Dallas; Murfreesboro, Tenn.; and Charleston, S.C.

The mobile drugstore is built on a 40 foot, solid steel frame and can withstand a category 3 hurricane. Each unit comes with a satellite system that connects to VA’s pharmacy system and can process more than 1,000 prescriptions per hour. The satellite system is used to obtain the veterans prescription information and then dispense the drug on site. VA can also send replacement medications by mail or other carriers to the veterans’ home or temporary address.

mobile pharmacy When disasters hit, the VA takes the drugstore on the road

VA’s mobile pharmacy’s can dispense up to 1000 prescriptions per hour. (VA Photo)

Each pharmacy is divided into five sections, a work area for the pharmacists, an entryway for patients, a sleeping area with a bath and shower – making the units full service for both patients and the technicians on duty.

Pharmacists from all over the country volunteer to work these mobile apothecary’s and take part in disaster drills throughout the year.

The VA also has prescription information for you to consider before the next catastrophe. You should keep a list of all medications in your personal preparedness kit. You should always have a 15-day supply of medications and supplies on hand – never let your supply go below 15 days. For medications that require refrigeration, make sure you have a small portable cooler or ice chest ready for easy transportation. If you evacuate, bring prescription bottles – even the empty ones – of all medications that you are currently taking. If you have an urgent need for a prescription refill and your VA hospital or clinic is closed, contact the pharmacy at the facility where you are enrolled for care for directions on what to do. You can also go to that facility’s website for information.

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