HHS to release $200 million in bioterrorism preparedness funds to states

Jan 28, 2002 (CIDRAP News) – The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will soon release about 20% of the $1 billion in bioterrorism preparedness funding that is slated to go to states this year, HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced Jan 25.

More than $200 million will be released in the first round of funding, and states will be notified of their shares this week, Thompson said. But states will have to complete and submit bioterrorism preparedness plans before they will receive the remainder of their funding, he said. Those plans are due to HHS by May 15.

The money for states comes from $2.9 billion in supplemental public health funding that was approved by Congress late last year and signed into law by President Bush Jan 10, according to an HHS press release. The funds are intended to be used to improve infectious disease surveillance, help hospitals prepare to deal with large numbers of casualties, expand public health laboratory capacity, and improve "connectivity" between hospitals and public health agencies.

Thompson's announcement said programs and initiatives to receive funds in the first round include:

  • The Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS). The funding will add 25 more cities to those that have received funds in the past, so that 80% of the population will be covered by an MMRS plan.
  • The Lab [Laboratory Response] Network. The network consists of labs nationwide that conduct tests to identify disease outbreaks, including those related to bioterrorism. The funds will be used to expand the network and enhance lab capabilities.
  • Hospital planning. Funds will be used by states to create regional hospital plans for responding to bioterrorist attacks.
  • The Health Alert Network (HAN). The HAN is a "developing communications network" used by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionn (CDC) to warn state and local health departments about potential or actual disease outbreaks. The goal is to include at least 90% of the population in the HAN. The funds are to be used to improve Internet-based communication among the federal government, state and local health agencies, emergency responders, and hospitals.
  • Emergency stockpile of medical supplies. First-round funds will be used to develop emergency plans for receiving and distributing medical supplies from the federal stockpile (National Pharmaceutical Stockpile). HHS currently has eight 50-ton "push packages" of supplies around the country, with plans to increase the number to 12 this year.

"In the next week, we will send each governor a letter specifying the first round funding amounts for their state, and most importantly, the goals they are expected to meet in order to achieve better preparedness," Thompson stated. HHS is asking states to submit their plans between Mar 15 and May 15; the department said it will complete its review of each plan within 30 days after submission. "Each statewide plan is to lay out how it will respond to a bioterrorism event and other outbreaks of infectious disease, but also how it will strengthen core public health capacities in all relevant areas," the release said.

In a separate fact sheet issued with Thompson's announcement, HHS officials said the $2.9 billion for bioterrorism spending in fiscal 2002 is nearly 10 times the $296 million that was available in 2001. The planned breakdown of spending, HHS said, is as follows:

  • $940 million for fortifying the federal, state, and local public health network
  • $645 million to expand the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile
  • $512 million to buy more smallpox vaccine
  • $248 million for research supported by the National Institutes of Health
  • $145 million for the Food and Drug Administration for food safety and "drug/vaccine preparedness"
  • $135 million for helping hospitals prepare for bioterrorism episodes
  • $116 million for the CDC, primarily for lab capacity
  • $51 million to support community emergency preparedness

See also:

HHS press release regarding Thompson's announcement

HHS fact sheet titled "Bioterror Funding Provides Blueprint to Build a Strong New Public Health Infrastructure"

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