VA Sends Mobile Units to North Carolina to Aid Veterans After Hurricane

U.S Army Soldiers travel through parts of North Carolina during high water rescue operations in support of the Hurricane Florence Relief effort at Lumberton, North Carolina, Sept. 19, 2018. (U.S. Army photo/Joshua Ford)
U.S Army Soldiers travel through parts of North Carolina during high water rescue operations in support of the Hurricane Florence Relief effort at Lumberton, North Carolina, Sept. 19, 2018. (U.S. Army photo/Joshua Ford)

Department of Veterans Affairs mobile units began operating in North Carolina on Thursday to aid veterans who missed appointments or need prescriptions filled in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence.

The VA Mobile Medical Units set up in a Walmart parking lot in Havelock, North Carolina, where the Morehead City Community Based Outpatient Clinic remains closed.

The VA assets include a mobile command unit, a mobile medical unit for medical triage with three examination rooms, a mobile health unit with telehealth capability, and a mobile emergency nutrition unit to provide three daily meals.

Prescription needs are being fulfilled through an arrangement with Heritage Health Contract at the Walmart, said Tara Ricks, an Army veteran and communications director for the Veterans Integrated Services Network covering North Carolina and part of coastal Virginia.

If veterans who need prescriptions filled cannot make it to the mobile units, the plan is "to send medications to their doors," Ricks said. The VA employees working the mobile units are "all volunteers who want to be out there. It's invaluable for our veterans."

From the outside, the Morehead City clinic did not appear to be damaged, she said, but inside "there was definitely some water intrusion and tile damage."

The VA is assessing whether to send mobile units to Brunswick, Jacksonville and Wilmington, North Carolina, Ricks said. In addition, the department is deploying 10, two-person outreach teams consisting of a nurse and a social worker to various shelters in the areas affected by the storm.

Floodwaters reportedly are receding in some areas, but in visits to North and South Carolina on Wednesday, President Donald Trump warned that the threat from the aftermath of Hurricane Florence was not over. He cited the storm's huge rainfall and the swollen rivers still overflowing their banks.

Trump said, "It's going to get rough for South Carolina," and "you're going to have a lot of water" flowing down from rivers in North Carolina.

In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper asked residents Thursday to "stay alert" to rising waters. "People in flood-prone areas or near waterways need to remain alert as rivers crest and stay above their banks in coming days."

The White House reported Wednesday that nearly 20,000 federal employees had been mobilized to aid in the Florence recovery, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had deployed 136 personnel to assist in installing generators.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had conducted more than 2,000 rescues through Wednesday and is sheltering nearly 15,000 people, the White House summary of storm efforts said.

The Defense Department had assigned a total of about 13,000 personnel to support the recovery, including about 6,000 active-duty personnel and more than 7,000 National Guardsmen.

The Coast Guard had more than 3,000 personnel assigned in 27 helicopters, 11 fixed-wing aircraft, 14 cutters, and 35 shallow-water craft. "To date, the Coast Guard has saved over 400 lives and 200 pets," the White House said.

In addition, the National Guard has performed or supported more than 535 rescue and evacuation missions in North Carolina, the White House said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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