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Drug chains contribute to Hurricane Maria relief

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Retailers offer aid as Puerto Rico recovers from devastating storm

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NEW YORK — Chain drug retailers have stepped forward with donations and other aid for relief efforts on Puerto Rico, which is still reeling from the infrastructural damage wrought by Hurricane Maria.

Walgreens, CVS Pharmacy, Rite Aid and Discount Drug Mart are among the chains contributing funds and other assistance to the U.S. territory, where the violent storm flooded coastal areas and knocked out power, shutting down essential public services and leaving many without food, water, medicine and shelter.

In an update on Wednesday, Walgreens reported that it has reopened more than half of its 120 stores in Puerto Rico. Some locations are operating on a limited basis, many with generators that were already located on-site.

The company said this week that it’s making a $250,000 donation to American Red Cross Hurricane Maria relief effort. Walgreens customers can also donate to Red Cross hurricane relief efforts at checkout in Walgreens and Duane Reade stores nationwide and in Puerto Rico.

“Since opening our first store in Puerto Rico in 1960, we’ve had a strong commitment to serving the island’s health care needs, which have never been greater than they are now,” Nivia Santiago, Puerto Rico regional vice president for Walgreens, said in a statement. “Today, our employees are working tirelessly to provide medicines and everyday needs to our patients and customers during this critical time. Across the country, our customers are looking for ways to show their generosity and support, which is why we’ve started this donation campaign as an easy way to help.”

Meanwhile, CVS Health on Wednesday announced support for Hurricane Maria relief as part of an overall $10 million in cash and in-kind product donations following in-store money-raising campaigns to aid recovery efforts from this year’s devastating hurricane season.

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CVS said customers and colleagues donated nearly $4 million to support hard-hit Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico communities during a 10-day, in-store fundraising campaign. CVS also is donating more than $6 million of critical products and supplies to these communities, boosting the company’s total support to $10 million.

The funds will be split evenly between Unidos por Puerto Rico, Rebuild Texas Fund and the Florida Disaster Fund to help support rebuilding in affected communities over the coming weeks and months, CVS said, adding that products will be distributed where they are needed the most.

“We are incredibly grateful to our colleagues and customers who have demonstrated our values of caring and integrity over the past few weeks during these historic storms,” commented Helena Foulkes, executive vice president of CVS Health and president of CVS Pharmacy. “The rebuilding process for many of these communities will take a long time, and we will continue to do our part by providing support during this difficult time.”

CVS noted that the catastrophic impact and power outages in Puerto Rico after Maria presented challenges in coordinating resources for colleagues, customers and patients. In response, the company transported much-needed specialty medicines and essential equipment to support store operations in Puerto Rico. In some cases, medication was delivered directly to individual patients who were in need.

“While it is never easy to manage through storms of this magnitude, hundreds of our colleagues have gone above and beyond to ensure that our patients, customers and communities are being served, despite the devastation impacting their own personal lives,” according to Eileen Howard Boone, president of the CVS Health Charitable Foundation. “Their generosity, compassion and dedication to serving others whether it be patients, residents or co-workers is truly amazing.”

To ensure patients and customers received the medications and information they needed, CVS said it mobilized an enterprisewide effort to help with preparations and accommodations before and after the storms.

The company noted that its proprietary messaging platform enabled urgent communications to patients in the path of hurricanes. Text messages were sent to tens of thousands of patients, reminding them to plan ahead for any potential disruptions. CVS said the messages also aided the delivery of specialty drugs and other medicines to patients in transition between home and safe shelter.

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In addition, CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation, colleagues and customers have donated almost $800,000 in cash and in-kind product donations to the American Red Cross, Direct Relief, Salvation Army, Florida Disaster Fund, Unidos por Puerto Rico, Rebuild Texas Fund, the Greater Houston Community Foundation and the CVS Health Employee Relief Fund.

Rite Aid on Wednesay said it’s makinh a $150,000 donation to the American Red Cross to help the victims, families and communities in Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria.

Tracy Henderson, director of The Rite Aid Foundation and charitable giving initiatives, pointed out that need in Puerto Rico remains great nearly two weeks since the Category 4 storm.

“The Rite Aid Foundation hopes that this donation to the American Red Cross will help the people of Puerto Rico in their time of need and let them know they are not alone as they recover and rebuild,” Henderson stated.

Support from partners like The Rite Aid Foundation is critical to the recovery process, according to Jeri Sims, chief executive officer of the American Red Cross Central Pennsylvania Region, serving the area surrounding Rite Aid’s Camp Hill, Pa., headquarters.

“We’re deeply grateful for the generosity of The Rite Aid Foundation, whose support will help provide immediate assistance to thousands of families affected by this horrific disaster,” Sims commented. “There is a long, difficult road ahead for those impacted by Hurricane Maria.”

Ohio pharmacy chain Discount Drug Mart announced that, during October, customers can donate at the register to the Disaster Relief Fund, a group supplying essential materials to those impacted by Hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey.

At all 73 Discount Drug Mart stores, shoppers can donate any dollar amount to the Disaster Relief Fund and will receive recognition on a piece of paper stating that this customer has “helped those in need,” the drug chain said. All collected contributions will be matched up to $100,000.

In the lead-up and aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores has helped coordinate member relief efforts.

A Hurricane Maria resource page on the NACDS website said association partner Healthcare Ready has been activated for Puerto Rice in the wake of Hurricane Maria, as has Rx Open, an interactive map that helps patients and providers find open pharmacies in areas affected by natural disasters. Healthcare Ready is helping to route and coordinate supply donations, NACDS said.


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