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U.S. HHS Secretary Leavitt to bring public health, social services leaders to Texas

By J. Lyn Carl,

Austin, TX –

Although times and specific locations have not yet been confirmed, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt will bring a team of health care, public health and social service leaders to Texas in the next few days as part of the department's continuing efforts to bring care and services to locations where evacuees from Hurricane Katrina have gathered. Plans are to visit shelters in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas and possibly other areas.

Among those on the HHS team who will travel with Leavitt are Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona; Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Dr. Mark McClellan, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and son of Texas State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

Leavitt said HHS has spent the first week since the disaster providing for immediate health care needs of the victims and for the public health needs of the region. "Now, we want to make sure the full reach of the federal government's health and human services are being extended to every area where evacuees are located."

In addition to visiting Texas, Leavitt and his team will trek to Louisiana today and other parts of the Gulf Coast region affected by the killer hurricane. The teams, according to the Secretary, will build on existing local, state and federal efforts to provide immediate health care needs for those who survived the storm and have fled to other areas. HHS officials will be continuing medical, mental health and socials services for the evacuees as well as focusing on public health and disease prevention. Some HHS health care experts and medical supplies were deployed to the Gulf Coast region prior to the hurricane's making landfall. Those supplies and workers are working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and sate and local officials as federal agencies respond to victims' needs.

Others HHS officials accompanying Secretary Leavitt will be: Wade Horn, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families; Charles Currie, Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and Dr. Garth Graham, director of the Office of Minority Health. In addition to HHS leaders, the team will be joined by Dr. William Winkenwerder, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs; Gen. Joe Kelly of the U.S. Department of Defense; and Joe Becker of the American Red Cross.

As he visits shelters where evacuees are being houses, Secretary Leavitt will be looking to ensure that HHS resources are meeting the ongoing needs of hurricane victims.

The schedule for today, Sunday, is for the Secretary to visit the following sites in Louisiana:

- 12:20 p.m. CST - New Orleans Airport. The team will work with evacuation efforts at the airport where medical facilities are in operation.

- 3:45 p.m. CST - Baton Rouge, La. The team will visit the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on the Louisiana State University campus where evacuees are being housed and health care facilities are being staffed in part by HHS personnel.

Following his trip to Louisiana, Secretary Leavitt will visit shelter sites in Texas.

"We have a great deal of work to do to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina get back on their feet and begin recovering from this tragedy," said Leavitt. "We're going to be where they are in order to help them every step of this journey."

More news links and relief effort resources from KERA

More news from KERA's NewsRoom