Health and Human Services secretary declares public health emergency in Alaska

FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in Alaska due to the earthquake damage. The declaration allows HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs in the aftermath of the quake.

CMS can grant waivers that will aid healthcare facilities in providing uninterrupted care and services for the elderly and people with disabilities living in long-term care facilities. The waivers also ensure that Medicaid funds continue to flow despite the temporary closure of the agency's offices.

As part of the federal response to the earthquake, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's' Disaster Distress Helpline' is available to help residents in the impacted areas to cope with the stress of the disaster.