WASHINGTON – Maryland will get $18.8 million in federal funds in the next year to begin preparing against bioterrorist attacks and other public health emergencies resulting from terrorism.
The Maryland money was part of $1.1 billion in terrorism aid for the states that was announced Thursday by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.
“This is a good start,” said Maryland Health Secretary Georges C. Benjamin of the federal grant. “The funds will allow us to continue our efforts to make Maryland safe.”
The funds are intended to upgrade infectious disease surveillance, enhance the readiness of hospitals to deal with large numbers of casualties and expand communications systems.
Maryland will immediately receive $3.3 million, or 18 percent of the total amount it is slated to receive during the year. In order to get the rest of the money, state officials will have to give the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services a detailed plan on how they will respond to a bioterrorist attack or a sudden outbreak of an infectious disease.
“This money will be dedicated to American property, the American economy, and most importantly, American lives,” said Thompson, who wrote to the governor of each state informing them of the $1.1 billion available to strengthen public health facilities.
State and local health officials, including Benjamin, had said last week that they would need at least $1.1 billion in federal help to start building the systems needed to deal with terrorism attacks. The funds come from the $2.9 billion bioterrorism appropriations bill that President Bush signed into law Jan. 10.
“We’re putting money in the hands of states and local communities so they can start building strong public health systems for responding to a bioterrorism attack,” Thompson said. “We now have the opportunity to create a viable, vibrant and healthy public health system.”
Benjamin said he will use the funds to increase communication with the public, with hospitals, and between public health systems throughout the state. He said money will also go toward research and hospital preparedness.
The states’ detailed proposals are due to the federal government by March 15 and no later than April 15. Each plan must be reviewed and endorsed by the state’s governor prior to submission.
“I want mayors and governors to be very much involved in local public health systems,” said Thompson, a former governor of Wisconsin.
Major metropolitan areas, such as New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., will receive extra funds.
The funding to states and communities will be awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration and through contracts with cities for the Metropolitan Medical Response System initiative.