7/24/2013 — 

WASHINGTON, DC - In an effort to help ensure that Rhode Island’s medical facilities and health care systems are prepared for natural disasters and public health emergencies, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) announced that the Rhode Island Department of Health will receive $5.9 million to continue improving preparedness and health outcomes for a wide range of public health threats.  Rhode Island will receive $4.4 million through the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) cooperative agreement and $1.5 million in federal funding to strengthen its Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP).  The federal grants are administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The federal PHEP and HPP funds are designed to enhance the ability of hospitals and health care systems to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies such as natural and man-made disasters, terrorism, foodborne outbreaks, and health epidemics.

“This is a sound investment in bolstering public safety.  In the wake of Superstorm Sandy and the Boston bombings, this federal funding will help ensure the Rhode Island Department of Health and local hospitals can respond quickly and effectively when a major disaster strikes,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees federal funding for HHS programs.  “Our dedicated hospital workers and emergency responders are our first line of medical defense when disaster strikes.  This federal funding will help bolster Rhode Island’s emergency response capabilities and ensure hospitals and medical centers across the state are ready to effectively respond when we need them the most.”

“When disaster strikes, our first responders and hospital staff must have the resources they need to respond quickly and effectively,” said Senator Whitehouse. “This federal funding will help ensure the state agencies we turn to in times of crisis are adequately prepared."

HHS’ U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) administers PHEP funding to strengthen national health security and advance state and local preparedness and response capabilities.  HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) oversees HPP funding to help support preparedness for health care systems, organizations, and coalitions.  The funding may be used to provide interoperable communications equipment and technical support to health care facilities; upgrade patient tracking systems; and enhance evacuation plans.

Requirements of the HPP and PHEP cooperative agreements are complementary and aligned to minimize administrative tasks for state health departments.  The programs encourage health care entities and state and local public health departments to work collaboratively with other federal health and preparedness programs in their jurisdictions to maximize resources and prevent duplicative efforts. Such coordination of activities with emergency management and homeland security programs supports “whole community” planning to improve national preparedness efforts.