Under Executive Order 13347, all Federal emergency preparedness efforts must address the needs of individuals with disabilities and other vulnerable populations. HHS has taken a leadership role in engaging the disability community and providing guidance to partners to address the unique health needs of individuals with disabilities and other vulnerable populations, including children and youth with special health care needs. In 2006, HHS and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security cosponsored a working conference for State emergency preparedness, public health, aging, and disability agencies to facilitate dialog and collaboration among these organizations toward the common goal embodied in the Executive Order. The result has been a living laboratory for State and Federal cooperation and shared learning around the issue of emergency preparedness for vulnerable populations. OD and ASPR will implement and monitor the use of the disability-based preparedness toolkit and public health staff training modules—developed by a broad-based HHS workgroup—to ensure that the needs of children, youth, and adults with disabilities and chronic conditions are fully understood by first responders and other emergency response providers at the Federal, tribal, State, and local levels during all emergency situations.
ASPR, OD, and OCR are working with the American Red Cross to develop an intake and assessment tool that will be used at shelters to evaluate the functional needs of all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. This tool will help ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to shelter services and are served in the most integrated setting appropriate. On the local level, OCR’s 10 regional offices are working with other offices in HHS and States to provide technical assistance and resources to plan for and respond to needs of individuals with disabilities in the event of an emergency.
Protected Health Information. In its review of State and local emergency plans issued in the summer of 2006, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security identified misunderstanding and confusion surrounding the application of the HIPAA Privacy Rule protections to information sought for emergency response planning purposes. OCR has implemented a new Web-based interactive decision tool designed to assist emergency preparedness and recovery planners in determining how to access and use health information consistent with the HIPAA Privacy Rule. The tool guides emergency preparedness and recovery planners through a series of questions regarding how to apply the HIPAA Privacy Rule. The tool is available on OCR’s Web site along with bulletins containing information for emergency providers on the disclosure of protected health information to assist with disaster relief efforts.
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