HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt today announced that the department has made available another $1.3 billion to the states, territories and four metropolitan areas to help strengthen their capacity to respond to terrorism and other public health emergencies.
“Our ability to respond effectively to public health emergencies is an important part of securing our Homeland,” Secretary Leavitt said. “These funds will help us build on the progress we have made the past three years with our state and local partners, and will result in a stronger system to care for Americans in emergencies, whether it be a bioterror attack or an infectious disease outbreak like SARS or West Nile virus.”
The funds will be used to upgrade infectious disease surveillance and investigation, enhance the readiness of hospitals and the health care 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. 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 $862.8 million for strengthening public health preparedness to address bioterrorism, outbreaks of infectious diseases and public health emergencies. It focuses on the critical tasks necessary for the public health community to prepare for and respond to a terrorist event or other public health emergencies, emphasizing integrated response systems. The ability to quickly and effectively distribute preventative medication in affected areas is one of the nation’s top priorities to be addressed.
This year, CDC may increase the number of state laboratories with certified Level One capability for testing chemical agents. Currently there are CDC-certified laboratories to assist with chemical testing in California, Michigan, New Mexico, New York and Virginia. Other states will be able to submit applications for evaluation and up to five more may be selected for this program. The goal is to insure chemical samples are able to reach a laboratory for analysis within eight hours.
HHS will provide resources for the Early Warning Infectious Disease Surveillance program within the CDC funding 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 case reports in the 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.
Targeted funding to continue the Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI) in the 21 pilot cities will be provided to the states in the CDC grants. The goal 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 plans to augment with federal resources and alternative means of delivery. The initial funding for CRI focused primarily on the first 21 CRI cities. This year, CDC is expanding funding by $10 million for the first 21 cities for use in their metropolitan statistical area regardless of state lines. The CRI program funds will go to the following:
•California (San Diego & San Francisco);
•Missouri (St. Louis);
•Nevada (Las Vegas);
•New York City;
•Pennsylvania (Philadelphia & Pittsburgh);
•Texas (Dallas & Houston);
•Washington (Seattle); and
•Washington D.C. (the National Capitol Region including parts of Maryland and Virginia).
In addition to the 21 pilot cities, CDC will expand the CRI program to 15 other metropolitan areas in 15 states. In each case, the funds will go to the state with the core city of the metropolitan area. Those starting the CRI program are:
•Riverside-San Bernadino-Ontario, Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, and San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara (California);
•Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater and Orlando (Florida);
•Kansas City (Missouri);
•Columbus and Cincinnati-Middletown (Ohio);
•Providence-New Bedford-Fall River (Rhode Island);
•San Antonio (Texas);
•Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News (Virginia); and
•Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis (Wisconsin).
HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is providing $471 million for states to develop surge capacity to deal with mass casualty events. This includes the expansion of hospital beds, development of isolation capacity, identifying additional health care personnel, establishing hospital- based pharmaceutical caches, and providing mental health services, trauma and burn care, communications and personal protective equipment. Hospitals play a critical role in both identifying and responding to any potential terrorism attack or infectious disease outbreak.
Last year, HHS provided a total $1.3 billion to the states, territories and four major metropolitan areas for these preparedness activities.