Budget cuts threaten emergency preparedness

By: December 16th, 2008 Email This Post Print This Post

You’ve no doubt heard about the unemployment rate, the bank bailouts, and most recently the trouble in Detroit with the auto industry. Every day headlines reveal another portion of the U.S. sucker punched by the economy.

Now you’re going to hear about some of the jabs the economy has thrown at the public health system, particularly the programs devoted to emergency management.

Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) released its sixth annual Ready or Not? Protecting the Public’s Health from Disease, Disasters, and Bioterrorism this month, which concludes that while progress that has been made to prepare for emergencies like disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and bioterrorism, it is now being threatened due to (you guessed it) the economic crisis.

The report found that federal funding for state and local preparedness has been trimmed by more than 25% since the 2005 fiscal year. Plus, despite the increased focus on pandemic flu preparedness, states are no longer receiving any supplemental funding to ensure the continuation of those efforts.

In the coming year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy and Priorities, 33 states are facing shortfalls in their 2009 public health budgets and 16 states are already projecting shortfalls to their 2010 budgets.

To make things worse, the report found that levels of vaccine and medication distribution has fallen short of expectations, despite the continued threat of pandemic flu and bioterrorism attacks. Sixteen states have purchased less than half of their share of federally-subsidized antivirals to use during a flu pandemic.

At the moment, it’s not really clear whether the pandemic supply shortfall is the result of readjusted priorities, a simple case of fewer dollars to spend, or a combination of the two. What is important is that if you’re depending on the state to help you out in a real event, that help may not be what you’re expecting. It might be worth a proactive check with those folks to see where they are, and where you fall in the distribution hierarchy.

Is your facility feeling the effects of the country’s recession? Have you seen budget cuts? Have they impacted you directly? Tell us by answering this week’s featured poll question that asks what section of your facility is suffering the most budget cuts.


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