February 1, 2002

California to get $100 million to counter bioterrorism


WASHINGTON California will get nearly $100 million to
prepare for bioterrorism attacks, out of a $1.1 billion national
infusion designed to bring public health systems up to the
challenge of meeting the threat.

Los Angeles County will get $27.9 million of that under the plan,
which targets some funding specifically to the nation's three
largest population centers and Washington, D.C.

Seven smaller metropolitan areas throughout the state will split
$2.2 million under a bioterrorism program authorized by
Congress in 1996.

"These funds are just the start of our efforts to help states and
communities build up their core public health capabilities,"
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said
in announcing the funding yesterday. "We must do everything
we can to ensure that America's ability to deal with bioterrorism
is as strong as possible."

But the bulk of the funding 80 percent won't be released until states submit detailed bioterrorism response plans to the federal government and the plans are approved. Only 20 percent of the money $19.5 million for California will be released

In California, the funds will be used to improve hospital
readiness, plan for the mass distribution of vaccines and
antibiotics, enhance efforts to spot suspicious disease outbreaks and a host of other initiatives, said state Health Director Diana Bonta.

"This is very good news for California," she said, noting that the
federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had
previously been providing only $2.5 million a year to the state
for such programs. "This will certainly enhance what we will be
able to do."

The Sept. 11 terrorist strikes and subsequent anthrax attacks on
the East Coast highlighted the need for states and localities to be better prepared to respond to bioterrorism. Experts say many
public health systems are woefully inadequate.

The funding Thompson announced comes from a $2.9 billion
bioterrorism appropriation approved by Congress and signed by
President Bush on Jan. 10.

The bulk of the money for California and other states will come
from CDC and is targeted for statewide preparedness efforts.
That funding totals $84.1 million in California, including $24.3
million for Los Angeles County.

A second portion of funding will come from the Health
Resources and Services Administration for the creation of
regional hospital plans, designed to equip hospitals to
accommodate at least 500 patients in an emergency. California
will get $13.4 million from that pot, including $3.6 million for
L.A. County.

The final piece of funding will go to 49 cities nationwide under a
plan created by Congress to beef up local preparedness for
mass-casualty disasters, including bioterrorism. In California,
$2.2 million will be shared by Bakersfield, Fremont, Modesto,
San Bernardino, Glendale, Huntington Beach and Stockton.

San Diego previously received $600,000 under the program,
according to federal officials. The city of Los Angeles previously
received $600,000 under the program.

The state preparedness plans are due to the Health and Human
Services agency no later than April 15, and the agency has
vowed to complete its review of each plan within 30 days of
receipt. Bonta said California already has in place "a very
significant number" of the 16 points the federal agency outlined
for inclusion in the plans and anticipates meeting the deadline.