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25 January 2002

Text: States Boosting Protections against Bioterrorism

(Federal government sends $200 million to states) (1000)
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G.
Thompson announced January 25 that he's preparing to send more than
$200 million to state governments to help them build better responses
to bioterrorism. The designated funds come from the almost $3,000
million anti-terrorism law passed by the U.S. Congress after the
September 11 attacks.
"The federal government is going to help states and communities build
a better connected health system thereby strengthening the ability to
respond to an attack," Thompson said.
The states are supposed to submit plans on how they'll improve their
health systems over the next several months. The HHS press release
announcing the initiative outlines general goals including
improvements in infectious disease detection, hospital systems
communication, and laboratory disease analysis capabilities.
Following is the text of the HHS press release: 
(begin text)
January 25, 2002
HHS Press Office
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced today plans for the release
of the first installment of more than $200 million in funds from the
more than $1 billion in bioterrorism money designated for states to
help prepare their public health infrastructures to respond in the
event of a bioterrorism attack.
The funds come from the $2.9 billion supplemental bioterrorism
appropriations that President Bush signed into law Jan.10, 2002. The
remaining 80 percent of the $1 billion in state funds will be awarded
once HHS receives the state plans called for in the initial funding
round. Plans are due to HHS no later than May 15, 2002.
"This is only the first step of many to help states build a stronger
and more responsive public health infrastructure in the event of a
bioterror attack. The federal government is going to help states and
communities build a better connected health system thereby
strengthening the ability to respond to an attack," Secretary Thompson
Improvements at the state and local level to achieve this goal include
upgrading infectious disease surveillance, enhancing the readiness of
hospital systems to deal with large numbers of casualties, expanding
public health laboratory and communications capacities and improving
connectivity between hospitals, and city, local and state health
departments to enhance reporting.
"As a former governor, I understand the importance of getting
governors directly involved on issues of public health and emergency
response capabilities. 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," the Secretary said.
The areas to be targeted in this first round include:
-- Metropolitan Medical Response System: The MMRS funding will add an
additional 25 new cities to those which have already received funding
in past years and will mean that 80 percent of the U.S. population
will be covered by an MMRS plan.
-- The Lab Network: The Lab Network consists of labs across the
country that conduct tests for purposes of identifying outbreaks of
disease including disease from a bioterror attack. The funds in this
category will be used to expand the network further and to enhance lab
-- Hospital Planning: Hospitals play a critical role in both
identifying and responding to any potential bioterror or disease
outbreak. The funds in this category will be used by states to create
regional hospital plans to respond in the event of a bioterror attack
-- Health Alert Network: Currently the Health Alert Network (HAN) is a
developing communications network used by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) to communicate with state and local
health departments regarding possible disease outbreaks or to provide
warning if a disease outbreak is known to exist somewhere in the
country. The goal is have at least 90 percent of the population in
America covered by the HAN network. The funds would be used to develop
better and faster methods of sending out and receiving messages using
the Internet between the federal government, state and local public
health offices, emergency responders and hospitals.
-- Emergency Stockpile: There are eight existing 50-ton Push Packages
of medical supplies placed strategically around the country, with
funds in the $2.9 billion supplemental bill to increase the number to
12. Federal funds will be used for the development of emergency plans
for the reception and distribution of the stockpile as well as
vaccines or antibiotics. The plan would also include a strategy to
communicate with the public.
Other key goals include:
-- Having at least one epidemiologist in each metro area with a
population greater than 500,000
--Developing an education and training plan that will reach health
professionals, emergency room physicians and nurses, local public
health officials and the public with information relating to
bioterrorism, new and emerging diseases and other infectious agents;
--Targeting bioterrorism research to new vaccines, anti-viral drugs
and new diagnostic tools to better protect against biologics.
Letters announcing the funds will go out to governors by Jan. 31. HHS
will receive the state plans called for in the letter as early as
March 15 and no later than May 15, 2002. HHS will complete its review
of each plan within 30 days of receipt. 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. Each statewide plan is to be
reviewed and endorsed by the governor prior to submission.
"Partnerships between HHS, state and local governments will be an
important part of the successful building of our public health
infrastructure and today's announcement is the first step in that
process," Thompson concluded.
(end text)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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