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MAHONING COUNTY Fighting terrorism locally will involve cooperation



Published: Thu, July 25, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Agencies need to begin to deliver by the end of 2002, a county official said.

By WILLIAM K. ALCORN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The health departments of Mahoning County, Youngstown, Struthers and Campbell are taking on terrorism and other community health threats in a cooperative plan developed with federal dollars.

The basic goal is to better protect the community with education and timely information during and after an event such as a terrorist attack, another outbreak of meningococcal disease or some other infectious health hazard, said Matthew Stefanak, Mahoning County health commissioner.

Stefanak presented the plan at the county health board meeting Wednesday.

The plan was developed in about a month's time. Congress appropriated about $1 billion for the program, and Mahoning County gets $182,191 of Ohio's share of $30 million. Disbursements were based on population.

Stefanak said that when Congress made the money available, it was with the expectation that the products and services be quickly delivered.

"We need to begin to deliver by the end of the year. Our plan calls for us to roll out improvements over the course of a year. We hope there will be more appropriations in the future," he said.

This year's money will become available Sept. 1.

Implementing the plan

Stefanak said implementation will not require additional employees at the county department, although he said the Youngstown City Health Department is considering hiring a new employee to serve as a readiness coordinator.

He said readiness coordinators are required to have training in incident command systems to deal with something like the meningitis outbreak in June 2001.

Specific goals of the plan include:

UDevelop plans and resources to address bioterrorism, outbreaks of infectious disease, and other public health threats and emergencies and the capacity to rapidly identify diseases and initiate prevention and control activities.

UDevelop a secure communication infrastructure for rapid communications among public and private health partners, and effectively communicate health risk information to the public and key partners.

UDevelop a public health phone line for disease reporting and acquire high-speed Internet access, Health Alert Network pagers, EMA radios for emergency contacts at all the health districts.

UEstablish a communications routine with local hospital emergency departments to enable early detection of unusual disease clusters and coordinate media communications, activate telephone hotlines and update health risk information on health district Web sites during public health emergencies.




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