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WASHINGTON, D.C. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt today announced that the department has made available another $1.2 billion to the states, territories and four metropolitan areas to help strengthen their capacity to respond to terrorism and other public health emergencies.
"Improving our nation's response to public health emergencies is an important part of securing America," Leavitt said. "All emergency incidents -- whether naturally occurring, accidental, or terrorist-induced -- begin as local matters and with this program, states and communities will build on the preparedness gains they've made over the past four years."
The funds will be used to improve infectious disease surveillance and investigation, enhance the preparedness of hospitals and the healthcare system to deal with large numbers of casualties, expand public health laboratory and communications capacities and improve connectivity between hospitals, and city, local and state health departments to enhance disease reporting. The funds will also be used to exercise existing response plans, test capabilities and evaluate improvements. These emergency preparedness and response efforts are intended to support the National Response Plan and the interim National Preparedness Goal.
The HHS funding is awarded via two separate but interrelated cooperative agreements. HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is providing $766 million to develop emergency-ready public health departments by upgrading, improving, and sustaining their preparedness and response capabilities for "all-hazards" public health emergencies, including terrorism and other naturally-occurring public health emergencies.
Included in the CDC awards is targeted funding to expand the Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI) from 36 metropolitan areas to 72 metropolitan areas representing all 50 states.Â Â Â The goal of CRI is to ensure the selected cities are prepared to provide oral medications during a public health emergency to 100 percent of their affected populations. This entails enhancing each city's dispensing plans with trained staff and developing and testing plans that include alternative means of delivery. Known as mass prophylaxis, this effort is considered the top public health priority identified in the National Preparedness Goal.
Also included in CDC's $766.4 million is $5.4 million for the Early Warning Infectious Disease Surveillance program specifically for states bordering Canada and Mexico (including the Great Lakes States) for the development and implementation of a program to provide effective detection, investigation and reporting of urgent infectious disease cases in the shared border regions of the three nations. States included in this program are Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.
HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is providing $450 million for states to develop medical surge capacity and capability to deal with mass casualty events. This includes the expansion of hospital beds, development of isolation capacity, identifying additional healthcare personnel, establishing hospital-based pharmaceutical caches, and providing mental health services, trauma and burn care, communications and personal protective equipment. Hospitals and other healthcare providers play a critical role in both identifying and responding to any potential terrorism attack or infectious disease outbreak.
Over the past four years, HRSA's Bioterrorism Hospital Preparedness Program has awarded funds to build the capacity of hospitals and other healthcare institutions to deal with large numbers of casualties. This year, the program will focus on improving the capability of local and regional healthcare systems to manage mass casualty events.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services