U.S. Health and Human Services declares public health emergency for Texas


A transmission tower supports power lines after a snow storm on February 16, 2021 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Norris Cochran declared a public health emergency for the state of Texas due to the recent winter storms.

This declaration will allow the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to give healthcare providers and suppliers more flexibility in meeting emergency health needs during disasters.

This comes shortly after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that he asked President Joe Biden to declare Texas a major disaster area to help Texans dealing with one of the worst winter storms in the state’s history.

An emergency declaration would bring federal resources into the state, and HHS is working to do the same.

Cochran says HHS is ready to provide critical support to the state of Texas as it tries to recover from the recent severe winter weather.

“The public health emergency declaration and Social Security Act waiver will help ensure our department’s continued ability to protect access to healthcare – particularly for those with Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program,” Cochran said. “HHS stands ready to assist the state of Texas to get aid to those individuals and families most impacted by these storms.”

HHS says they will continue to monitor the winter storms and make detailed information available to help the public protect themselves. This information includes preventing carbon monoxide poisoning, identifying and disposing of unsafe food, water and medications, reducing exposure to mold and avoiding other health risks.

Stress, anxiety and other depression-like symptoms are common reactions after a disaster. To assist residents in the impacted area in coping with the stress of the disasters, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration activated the Disaster Distress Helpline. The helpline provides immediate toll-free 24/7, 365-days-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.

Residents in affected areas may call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 (for Spanish, press 2 or text Hablanos to 66746) to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Guidance and other resources to assist in addressing health hazards and risks are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) online and through CDC’s information service, CDC-INFO.

Live agents provide up-to-date science-based health information. CDC-INFO can be reached Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or by submitting a web-based form. Services are available in English and Spanish.

Public health and safety information for winter storms can be found on the Ready.gov emergency website.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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