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McGreevey Sign Legislation to Strengthen State's

 Effort to Respond to Bioterrorism

 

(PRINCETON)-Governor James E. McGreevey today signed legislation appropriating $27.2 million in federal funds to strengthen the state's public health care infrastructure and improve hospital preparedness to respond to acts of bioterrorism and other health emergencies.

"The funds, which include $23.7 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and $3.5 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), are being made available to the state through cooperative agreements with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS)," McGreevey said.

The Governor said federal authorities are reviewing the agreements' proposed work plans, timelines and budgets and, if acceptable, full funding will be made available on or about May 15, 2002.

The bill, A-1955/S-34 (Sarlo, Watson Coleman, Quigley, Littell, Buono), enables the DHSS to accept the funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the State's Fiscal Year 2002. Of the $27.2 million in anticipated funding, $5.4 million has already been made available to the State.

McGreevey signed the legislation in Princeton at Critical Infrastructures: Working Together in a New World "Lessons Learned in Action", a security conference that the state is co-sponsoring this week.

"The federal dollars, together with $25 million in state appropriations proposed in the New Jersey's Fiscal Year 2003 budget, will help fund the recommendations of the Medical Emergency and Disaster Prevention and Response Expert Panel (MEDPREP)," McGreevey said.

The panel, comprised of top New Jersey health care experts, is developing the state's health-related terrorism preparedness plan.

"New Jersey is far better prepared today than last year," said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. "The federal and state funds will make New Jersey safer and better able to respond to acts of terrorism in an agile, rapid and coordinated fashion."

 


New Jersey's proposed cooperative agreement with the CDC calls for enhancements in six focus areas: preparedness planning and readiness assessment, surveillance and epidemiology, laboratory capacity for handling biological agents, the state's Health Alert Network and information technology, communicating health risks and disseminating health information, and education and training.

The prime focus of the proposed HRSA cooperative agreement is to advance hospital bioterrorism preparedness. This agreement will coordinate the efforts of hospitals and other health care facilities in managing potential epidemics on a regional level, and prepare plans for emergency communications.

Among other initiatives, the funding will provide for:

  • Creating an Office of Public Health Preparedness and a Bioterrorism Unit within the Department of Health and Senior Services, responsible for statewide planning, coordination and response.

     

  • Establishing five regional bioterrorism planning areas - Region 1 (Bergen, Essex and Hudson), Region 2 (Sussex, Morris, Passaic and Warren), Region 3 (Union, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean), Region 4 (Hunterdon, Somerset and Mercer) and Region 5 (Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland, Atlantic and Cape May).

     

  • Placing of public health planners in each of the 22 Local Information Network Communications Systems (LINCS) agencies in the state. LINCS agencies are designated local health departments that serve as information and resource hubs for the state and the 114 local health departments in New Jersey.

     

  • Providing grants for local infrastructure building at the 22 LINCS agencies for disease surveillance and investigation, information support, risk communication/health education and administration.

     

  • Securing the information technology resources to develop, maintain and enhance the Communicable Disease Reporting System between the DHSS, its Public Health and Environmental Laboratories (PHEL), hospital and commercial laboratories, and all local health departments and hospitals in the state.

     

  • Making improvements and expanding the PHEL to enable it to handle a higher volume of tests.

     

  • Enhancing the state's Health Alert Network in all local health departments.

     

  • Offering risk communications, public information, health education and training opportunities, including exercises and drills.

     

  • Providing health service grants to acute care hospitals so they can upgrade their ability to respond to biologic events and be better prepared to triage, isolate, treat, stabilize and refer multiple casualties.

     

  • Providing health service grants to health care facility associations so that they can hire staff to help member institutions prepare for and respond to bioterrorism.
     

The cooperative agreements also direct the state to create an advisory committee to provide ongoing input on state and local plans and activities. The committee will be comprised of representatives of state and local health care organizations and agencies as well as members of MEDPREP.

 

 


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