U.S. HHS Secretary visits Tyler shelter

Hundreds of evacuees staying in east Texas are those with special needs, and the city of Tyler has four special needs shelters. One of those shelters had the help of a federal disaster medical assistance team to relieve our local health resources.

This morning, the Secretary of Health and Human Services visited Tyler.

And, as KLTV 7's Molly Reuter explains, he was pleased with what he saw.

From local, to state to federal level.

This special needs shelter is a true example of team work.

"We are ready, and we have done what I feel to be a credible job," said Mike Leavitt, US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary.

This morning, Secretary Leavitt toured the Glass Recreation Center. It's the first federally operated special needs shelter in Tyler.

"Was this perfection? No. I'm here today because I want to learn the areas where we can improve. Where the federal government can add the resources at just the right moment for the state and local governments," said Leavitt.

Commissioner Dr. David Lakey of the Texas Department of State Health Services says Texas has come a long way since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

"The difference between having a plan that sits on the shelf and having a plan that is exercised is that you have gone through and you have identified those gaps and you have worked to solve those gaps," said Dr. Lakey.

Jenny Narkiewicz is from Beaumont. This is her first time evacuating to a shelter.

She just had back surgery and says she knew she would need help.

"The stay here has been wonderful, all of these medical personnel have been wonderful. They are angels," said Jenny.

It's positive feedback, but officials at every level know there is still work to be done.

"They are very good at this, and we are all getting better," said Leavitt.

The state says right now, it's working on getting the special needs evacuees back home on buses and ambulances.

Molly Reuter, reporting. mreuter@kltv.com