SWLA Center for Health Services is working to support our staff, patients and community in the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster adding to burden of the existing COVID-19 pandemic response.
Hurricane Laura swept through our state and left a trail of wreckage. Both the Oberlin and Crowley locations were impacted and suffered minor damage and power loss. The Lake Charles location’s medical building was left uninhabitable, the pharmacy was lost and our community devastated. Before landfall, our staff quickly began collecting supplies, water and food. We assisted with transportation of community members to pick up points for buses to out of town shelters, as a result of a mandatory evacuation. And ended up sheltering several elderly community members that were stranded.
As soon as the storm cleared we put our focus on the critical needs that will be ongoing for weeks to come. The need for water, ice, food and hygiene were at the forefront. The east building was functional and was set up as the command center. The services that are in place are:
- Distribution began on Thursday, August 27th, as soon as the storm passed. Staff on site provided the supplies that had been collected prior to the storm to the community members that did not evacuate. By Sunday, we were receiving donations of water, food, cleaning supplies, baby needs, pet food and hygiene items. We have ongoing distribution each day of supplies.
- Generator support was established on Monday, August 31st, providing some comfort for staff, volunteers and community members. That will continue until power service is restored.
- A Water Fleet trailer was brought in and was functional on Tuesday, September 1st. This supplies the intact portion of the building with potable water for restrooms, hygiene and showers in our locker rooms. This can serve our staff and strategic community leads. The trailer also provides potable water
fill stations and ice for our community.
- Portable toilets and hand wash stations were set up on Thursday, September 3rd. These further assist with hygiene for our community use as well. With these cleaning offerings we are working to keep COVID infection control protocols in place.
- We have volunteers that are American Sign Language interpreters and are supporting our deaf community to connect them with supplies and resources.
- Our team is coordinating preparation of fresh hot meals every day that we have participation. We have had support from over the region from restaurants, Greek organizations and the general public who have cooked for our community.
These services help us provide the basic immediate needs of our community. Moving forward, we are planning for additional life functions to fill the gap until full water and power utilities are restored. Planned next steps:
- Mobile shower trailer – we are coordinating having a mobile shower trailer to help with hygiene and general comfort of our community.
- Mobile laundry trailer – as we fight the challenge of a lack of utilities, this will provide clean clothes and an additional comfort level for our neighbors.
- RV – as we continue to gear up our medical services, we will need to provide housing for our displaced providers.
Our patients and neighbors are some of the most vulnerable in our community. Even under the best circumstances they do not receive the resources that are needed. During a disaster they are in a critical state. We will continue our work by ensuring that our community receives the resources that they need and help to rebuild their lives. While we can expect to have utilities restored in 4-6 weeks, it will be a much longer time frame before homes are repaired and replaced. We can expect that the residents of our community will have the fewest resources and the last to have their lives restored. At our five clinics, SWLA provides health care to residents that live in 15 southwestern Louisiana parishes, primarily serving low-income patients (43.5% below 100% poverty and 78.2% at or below 200% poverty) according to 2018 UDS data. About one in six of our patients is uninsured (14.7%) with the majority of our patients utilizing Medicaid/LaCHIP or Medicare (56%). SWLA’s patients are comprised of African American (57%), White (32%) and Hispanic/Latino (4%) individuals.
Their services include:
Substance Abuse Program
Medication Assisted Treatment
Opelousas Street Riders Bike Library
Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support Certified Site
Medicaid Application Center
ACA Certified Specialists (Affordable Care Act)
WIC (Women, Infants and Children)
About SWLA Center for Health Services
SWLA Center for Health Services is a Community Health Center which aspires to eliminate all disparities in access to healthcare by providing quality, cost-effective and comprehensive primary healthcare and support services in an environment that embraces respect and dignity. We provide the healthcare safety net for our patients’ medical, dental and mental health needs, providing services regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. Our Community Outreach is the educational complement to our Health Center services. We increase awareness as well as educate our next generation to equip them to make their health and wellness a priority.
Medicaid, Medicare, Veterans Choice and private insurances are accepted. For those without insurance, a Sliding Fee Scale is available based on income. Medicaid Enrollment Specialists are available to assist in applying for Medicaid.