HHS Releases $200 Million Bioterrorism Funds

Published March 1, 2002

Health and Human Services (HHS) released the first $200 million of a $1.1 billion plan to improve bioterrorism preparedness in hospitals and state and local health agencies—an effort to help “transform the overlooked science of public health” into the nation’s “first line of defense” against a bioterrorist attack, the Washington Post reports.

States are supposed to use the funds 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,” according to the Baltimore Sun.

State and local health departments received about $175 million of the funds, and hospitals received about $25 million. The state awards are based on population. According to a breakout of funds provided by the Baltimore Sun, California received the largest share of the funds, at $69.7 million, while Wyoming received the least, $6.5 million. Four cities—Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Washington, DC—also received funds.

HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said in an AP news report, “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.”

According to HHS, the states may begin spending their first installment immediately, but 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.

HHS further requires states to 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.

HHS will review each plan within 30 days and release the rest of the state’s money when a state plan is approved. Thompson has said his agency will not be heavy handed on it. They just want to make sure the money is well-spent.”