County Spending on Bioterrorism Preparedness Questioned
Los Angeles County has spent at least $2 million in federal bioterrorism preparedness funds on improving "the health department's image, responding to unrelated health scourges and buying questionable supplies and services," according to a review by the Los Angeles Times. However, health department officials say the county now is much better prepared to deal with bioterrorism.
The county received $83 million for bioterrorism preparations in 2004, of which $14 million was unspent, and received an additional $27.9 million for the current grant year that began last summer.
Most of the federal funding has been used to hire and train staff to respond to emergencies. But "at times, the spending has stretched the definition of terrorism readiness, drawing concern even from the department's own employees, according to spending requests and other documents," the Times reports.
In addition, the county "remains behind schedule" in "some key areas," including building a new public health laboratory, "as dollars flow to other projects or remain unused," according to the Times.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Jonathan Fielding said spending by the county meets federal guidelines and cited problems recruiting personnel, purchasing delays and lengthy negotiations with vendors (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 3/6).
In related news, Sacramento County has submitted a $27 million spending proposal to federal officials to maintain funding after the Department of Homeland Security changed its definition of urban areas, the Sacramento Bee reports. The county was eliminated from the federal funding pool, but is one of 11 cities that can submit a request for a final year of funding.
County officials said the funding would be used to make the regional emergency response network compatible with local and national networks and to establish a system to distribute medications in an emergency, among other programs.
A decision will be announced by the end of May, according to Sacramento Regional Office of Homeland Security Director Mike Smith (Jewett, Sacramento Bee, 3/4).