I read Lauren Southerland’s column for McKnight’s Senior Living, “Is your senior living community prepared for the next disaster?” with great interest as I lead the policy team for the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. 

In her column, Southerland laid out some common sense but often-unprioritized tactical strategies to ensure patient safety. Coming from the pharmacy perspective, ensuring the medication list is included within each resident’s “to go” bag is critical to preventing a medication error during a disaster when resources will be limited. 

Her column was instructive for both senior living and nursing home operators; I hope many read it and consider implementing its tools because, broadly, our national disaster response system is not designed for older adults, people with disabilities and others without independence and independent resources. 

Working at ASCP during the COVID response shows how little national and local public health officials know about long-term care. In fact, we had conversations where officials were surprised to learn about a facility in their jurisdiction. We must do better when it comes to disaster preparedness for our most vulnerable.  

In 2022, Assistant U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Rachel Levine undertook the quadrennial review of the National Health Security Strategy. In our comments, ASCP begged her staff to “invest in understanding the existing healthcare supply chain, especially as it relates to specialized and long-term care.” 

It was disappointing that “long-term care” is stated only once in the 31 pages of the NHSS.  

Given that HHS officials are not planning for disasters impacting long-term care facilities, it’s imperative that facilities develop, implement and drill these plans because there are no federal white knights waiting in the wings.

James Lewis is the senior director of policy and advocacy at the American Society of Consultant  Pharmacists. He is a former senior staffer to Reps. Barbara Lee and Robin Kelly.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.

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