Direct Relief USA, which provides medical aid to more than 1,000 clinic and health centers across the U.S., began as a pilot program in California and continues here today. Founded in California in 1948, Direct Relief has long provided support to our neighbors in need through ongoing assistance, targeted donation programs, and support during emergencies.
Supporting Santa Barbara County
Direct Relief supports vulnerable people in its home county of Santa Barbara through the Personal Care Packs program, Healthy Smiles program, and ongoing assistance.
Personal Care Packs Program
There has been an increase in the number of people in Santa Barbara in need of assistance coupled with a decrease in funding for health and human services. The Personal Care Packs Program aims to help vulnerable populations in Santa Barbara County – including homebound seniors, homeless families, and migrant farm workers – by providing them with basic care items. Each year Direct Relief provides 6,000 personal care packs, distributed through over 30 social service agencies throughout the county, to individuals and low-income families.
Healthy Smiles Program
Dental care is the greatest unmet health need in Santa Barbara County, especially among children. Since 1994, Direct Relief has supported the Healthy Smiles program, which provides professional dental care and oral hygiene kits to children from low-income families who couldn’t otherwise afford these services. Each year, Direct Relief distributes at least 1,000 child dental kits and 3,400 family dental kits (serving a family of 5). The kits are assembled by volunteers and distributed to over 10 Santa Barbara County organizations. Dental kit recipients are educated on proper dental care. In addition to distributing kits, Direct Relief coordinates several dental day-clinics throughout the year that treat between 25 and 40 low-income children with dental disease per clinic.
Direct Relief works closely with community clinics in Santa Barbara County by providing them with donations of medications, medical supplies, and products on an ongoing basis. The largest recipients of these donations are Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, Santa Barbara Street Medicine, the County of Santa Barbara’s Public Health Clinics, and American Indian Health & Services. The program has received positive feedback from local clinics and strengthens their ability to help the most vulnerable in our community.
Emergency Preparedness at Home
Direct Relief USA plays an integral part in California’s Standardized Emergency Management System through partnership with the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA). This allows Direct Relief to further represent clinics, health centers, and public health officials by anticipating and addressing their material resource needs during an emergency.
Working with Cal EMA—due to expertise in medical product distribution and relationships with the country’s leading pharmaceutical and medical manufacturers—Direct Relief leads the distribution of donated medical resources to front-line health providers during an emergency for the Business and Utility Operations Center (BUOC ). The BUOC engages private industry during emergencies, and includes representatives from Target, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowes, the California Utilities Emergency Association, San Francisco Helicopters, the California Resiliency Alliance,and the California Grocers Association. This working group of private, public, and nonprofit organizations has been assembled to address the public’s needs during a large-scale emergency within California in a coordinated, efficient way.
To better prepare the state for an emergency, Direct Relief has equipped more than 1200 MRC Packs to 15 Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units, including those in Santa Barbara, Sacramento, San Diego, and Los Angeles, with custom backpacks filled with emergency medical supplies and equipment. The “grab-and-go” packs enable these trained, credentialed medical volunteers to deploy quickly where they’re needed when an emergency strikes.
California is particularly vulnerable to wildfires, including those that scorched San Diego County in 2007 and Santa Barbara County in 2008 and 2009. Direct Relief has provided large-scale support for first-line responders as well as community members displaced and affected by fire conditions.