Springfield Journal Register

March 22, 2003

State to receive funds to fight bioterrorism


WASHINGTON - Illinois will receive $56.3 million in federal funds to help public health departments become better prepared for a possible terrorist attack using biological or chemical weapons.

Of that, $40.8 million will go to the state and another $15.5 million is earmarked for Chicago.

The allocation is part of $1.4 billion that the federal government released this week in the second year of funding for bioterrorism preparedness. Congress created the aid program to strengthen the public health system following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The funds will be used to continue the state's effort to increase laboratory capacity and to improve communications among hospitals and state and local health departments. Some local departments have limited ability to receive emergency alerts, said Illinois Department of Public Health spokeswoman Michelle Gentry-Wiseman.

Of the $30 million in federal funds received by the state last year, a minimum $20,000 was distributed to each of the 94 city and county health departments, she said. More was available based on the population served.

The state funding also will assist with the state's program for vaccinating public health workers for smallpox, said Gentry-Wiseman. So far, 48 public workers have volunteered to be vaccinated in Illinois.

States received $1.1 billion last year and distributed much of it to local health departments. Coordinating with each other, they have spent the money to buy computers and other equipment, hire experts in infectious disease and improve communications among local, state and federal health authorities.

Despite U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson's announcement, states will not receive the bulk of the funding until at least summer. They first need to develop and receive federal approval of spending plans, HHS spokesman Campbell Gardett said.

However, governors can request an advance of up to 20 percent of the money to pay for smallpox vaccinations or other activities contained in last year's plans.