HHS, DHS fund public health preparedness and emergency response

Jul 18, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) yesterday announced it was providing states, US territories, and four metropolitan areas with $896.7 million in public health preparedness funding, with $175 million of the total earmarked for pandemic planning.

Preparedness grants
The bulk of the money is allocated toward Public Health Emergency Cooperative Agreements, which public health departments use to build capacity.

HHS secretary Mike Leavitt said in a press release that the funding represents the next step toward boosting state and local public health preparedness and emergency response. "It allows state, local, territorial, and tribal public health jurisdictions to build upon preparedness gains that have been made over the past 5 years of federal funding," he said in yesterday's HHS statement.

According to the HHS, the funding amount also includes $175 million for pandemic influenza preparedness. In 2006 the HHS allocated $325 million for pandemic preparedness, which was intended to help states prepare and test their pandemic plans, then identify and fix their planning gaps.

Von Roebuck, a spokesperson for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told CIDRAP News that in coming months the HHS will release additional pandemic planning guidance for states.

The preparedness funds also include:

  • $57.3 million to support the Cities Readiness Initiative, a program designed to help 72 major US cities and metropolitan areas respond to bioterrorism and other large-scale public health events by dispensing oral medications to the entire population
  • $35 million to help poison control centers improve their early detection, surveillance, and investigative capabilities in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear event
  • $5.4 million to help states that border Mexico and Canada develop and implement programs to detect, investigate, and report urgent infectious disease cases.

The public health preparedness allocations, which include the pandemic planning money, range from $5,748,448 for Wyoming to $65,303,030 for California. Amounts for the urban areas range from $9,898,128 for the District of Columbia to $30,712,150 for Los Angeles County.

The funds the HHS provided yesterday are in addition to $430 million the agency allocated in June to strengthen the ability of hospitals and other healthcare facilities to respond to bioterror attacks, infectious diseases, and other mass casualty events, the HHS said.

Homeland security grants
In other public health and emergency response funding developments, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced $1.7 in homeland security grants to help states, territories, and urban areas protect against, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks and other disasters.

According to a DHS press release today, the total includes almost $411 million for six urban areas that are at highest risk of a terrorist attack: New York City/northern New Jersey, the national capital region, Los Angeles/Long Beach, the California Bay area, Houston, and Chicago.

The Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) and the Citizen Corps Program (CCP) are among the public health projects that are funded through the DHS grants. The amounts for each, announced in January, are $32 million for the MMRS and $14.6 million for the CCP.

Communications grants
Also today, US Commerce secretary Carlos Gutierrez and DHS secretary Michael Chertoff announced $986 million in Public Safety Interoperable Communication grants to help first responders improve and coordinate communications during natural or manmade disasters, according to a DHS press release.

The one-time grants, for which localities can apply during the next 30 days, is designed to help public service agencies acquire, deploy, and train for interoperable voice, data, and video communications systems.

Different jurisdictions and agencies use different communications technologies, which can impair critical communication among firefighters, police, and other emergency responders during a disaster, the DHS said.

"When disaster strikes, first responders must have the tools to communicate," Gutierrez said in the press release. "Under this streamlined program, states will be given grants to use technology that will make our cities and states safer."

See also:

Jul 17 HHS press release

Jul 11, 2006 CIDRAP News story "HHS to share $225 million for pandemic readiness"

CDC Cities Readiness Initiative background

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