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Friday, February 23, 2024
HomeCommunityHealth & WellnessDOH to Open Special Needs Shelters During Hurricane

DOH to Open Special Needs Shelters During Hurricane

The V.I. Department of Health (DOH) will operate Special Needs Shelters because of Hurricane Irma.

Where are the Special Needs Shelters located?

St. CroixCharles Harwood Complex, 1st floor

St. Thomas Community Health, 2nd floor of Schneider Regional Medical Center

What is a Special Needs Shelter?

The Department of Health (DOH) will operate Special Needs Shelters (SpNS) for persons requiring special assistance during emergency evacuation situations. The intent is to provide, to the extent possible under emergency conditions, an environment in which the current level of health of persons with special needs is maintained. The SpNS is not a hospital, a nursing home/restorative care center or a shelter for the general populace.

How is someone identified as a Special Needs person?


Department of Health of the United States Virgin Islands

ecial needs persons who are independent individuals with special support equipment needs or who receive care in the home from a family member. Those eligible for the SpNS have a physical or mental condition that requires medical/nursing oversight that cannot be accommodated or provided for in a general population shelter.

Referrals will be screened through pre-registration by the Department of Human Services and DOH nursing staff to determine if they are to be assigned to a hospital, long-term care facility, general or special needs shelter based upon information received from the individual or that person’s caregiver.

What are some of the criteria for Special Needs?

  • People with minor health/medical conditions that require professional observation, assessment and maintenance
  • People with chronic conditions that require assistance with activities of daily living but do not require hospitalization
  • People with regular need for medications and/or regular vital sign readings and who are unable to do so without professional assistance

What should individuals bring to the special needs shelter?

Special Needs persons should bring any necessary special equipment, and all medication and dietary supplies. The SpNS cannot accept persons on oxygen; those individuals should go to the hospital. Further, when the person requiring special needs care is ordered to evacuate, he or she is expected to bring a caregiver with them to the shelter. The caregiver is expected to remain with the special needs person.  

Will there be nurses and/or physicians available?

Yes. DOH nurses assigned to staff the SpNS will assist individuals and their caregivers as needed for basic support services. The nursing staff will provide support within their scope of practice based on their training and qualifications and are not expected to provide total care beyond their professional level of expertise.

A DOH physician will supervise the nurses and make recommendations as needed to escalate the level of care needed that may go beyond the scope of the shelter. 

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