HHS Issues First Part of $1.1B to Improve State Bioterrorism Responses; California to Receive $69.7M
HHS yesterday released the first installment of a $1.1 billion plan to improve bioterrorism preparedness in hospitals and state and local health agencies that includes $69.7 million for California, the Washington Post reports (Hsu, Washington Post, 2/1). States will use the $1.1 billion, part of a $2.9 billion anti-bioterrorism bill that Congress passed last fall, to train medical and emergency personnel to identify and respond to bioterrorist attacks, improve public health laboratories, upgrade computer systems and prepare hospitals to treat a "huge influx of sick or injured" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 2/1). Of the $200 million released by HHS yesterday, state and local health departments received about $175 million, and hospitals received about $25 million (Washington Post, 2/1). Four cities, including Los Angeles, will receive their own funds (AP/Baltimore Sun, 2/1). Los Angeles will receive a total of $27.9 million (San Jose Mercury News, 2/1). In addition, 49 cities nationwide, including seven in California --Bakersfield, Fremont, Modesto, San Bernardino, Glendale, Huntington Beach and Stockton -- will share $14.6 million of the $1.1 billion under an existing emergency preparedness program. San Diego and Los Angeles have each received $600,000 under the program in the past (Eckert, Copley News Service/San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/1). HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said, "We now have the opportunity to build a viable, vibrant, strong local and state public health system that will prepare and protect our citizens for any attack that may come" (Cass, Associated Press, 2/1). Department of Health Services Director Diana Bonta added, "This will certainly enhance what we will be able to do" (San Jose Mercury News, 2/1).
While states may begin spend their first installments -- $19.5 million for California -- immediately, they must submit "comprehensive" plans to improve their "core" public health systems to HHS by March 15 to receive their remaining shares of the $1.1 billion (AP/Baltimore Sun, 2/1). States must develop plans to prepare hospitals for "mass-casualty incidents," track "suspicious" diseases, expand health laboratories and increase communication between the health care industry, local health officials and federal agencies (Washington Post, 2/1). HHS will review each plan within 30 days and "release the rest of the state's money when its plan is approved." Thompson said, "We're not going to be heavy-handed on it. We just want to make sure the money is well-spent" (AP/Baltimore Sun, 2/1). Bonta said that California has addressed a "very significant number" of the requirements outlined by HHS and predicted that the state would meet the March 15 deadline. She said that the state would use the funds to improve hospital preparedness, develop a plan to distribute vaccines and antibiotics and bolster programs to identify disease outbreaks (Copley News Service/San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/1). Thompson also "offered his assurance" that President Bush would include additional funding to help states improve their public health systems in his fiscal year 2003 budget (AP/Baltimore Sun, 2/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.