The federal government will give Tennessee nearly $20 million to boost services and responses to bioterrorist attacks and other crisis situations,the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday.
The Department of Health and Human Services is distributing the money as part of a $1.1 billion nationwide effort to improve public health systems' ability to deal with bioterrorist attacks.
“We're putting money in the hands of the states and the local communities so they will be able to start building even stronger public health systems by responding to bioterrorism attacks,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson Thursday at George Washington University Medical Center,where he announced the distribution of the funds.
It is the largest one-time investment in the nation's public health system ever,Thompson said.
“We've recognized that national,state and local health infrastructures must be prepared for bioterrorist attacks,” Thompson said.
“We also recognize that we have not,as a country,invested the necessary resources,scarce resources,into local and state public health systems.”
The distribution of the funds to those systems began last week,with funds varying state-to-state based on population.
The funding is divided into two main allotments.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will give Tennessee about $17.4 million to support improved preparedness for statewide bioterrorism,infectious disease,and public health emergencies.
Another $2.4 million will come from the Health Resources and Services Administration to help the state create regional hospital plans to respond to bioterrorism.
Tennessee,like all the other states,receives 20 percent of the promised funds immediately.
The remainder will come after the state Health Department prepares and submits a plan outlining how it will respond to bioterrorist attacks and infectious disease outbreaks and how it will improve essential public health services in related areas.
The plan,which must be approved by Gov. Don Sundquist,is due to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by March 15.
Tennessee Health Department spokeswoman Diane Denton said the money will help with some of the initiatives the state has already begun.
“This represents a phenomenal investment in public health,” she said,adding that some of the funds will go to pay for the state's new hiring of eight microbiologists and 12 epidemiologists.
The money will also go out to each of the 95 county health departments to improve on some of the state department's initiatives.
Denton said the state will use most of the funds to strengthen the communication infrastructure of the state's 95 county health departments,improve disease surveillance to cover a variety of possible crises,and provide statewide training to teach various emergency personnel how to handle real and possible bioterrorist attacks.