Baton Rouge – Two years ago today, America suffered an unprecedented terrorist attack. Since that assault by middle east extremists, much has been done to better prepare the country to defend itself, as well as increase our readiness should another threat become a reality.

Today, on the two-year anniversary of the 9/11 attack, the Department of Health has learned it has been awarded more than $24 million in new federal funding to continue bioterrorism preparedness efforts. The funds also can be used to enhance readiness efforts for other public health threats. The funding is from the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

The grant was awarded to Louisiana for two distinct efforts. The first component includes $16.5 million to plan for and upgrade the state’s public health system, which will be called upon to respond in the event of a bioterrorism attack. Another award of $7.76 million goes for a hospital preparedness effort that will ensure there is enough medical capacity in a community should a large-scale health emergency occur.

LDH sent its funding request to DHHS in July. Following a review of DHH’s request, the agency was awarded 100 percent of the funding it had sought.

David Hood, LDH secretary, said the money will allow the health agency to continue its efforts to provide for the early detection of infectious diseases, then respond appropriately.

"We must never forget what occurred two years ago when our world was changed forever. Nor, can we ever again fail to be prepared to respond," Hood stressed. "When it comes to responding to a bioterrorist attack, or even to a disease outbreak, we must identify it quickly, contain it to the best of our ability, and effectively communicate with health care providers, emergency responders and the public. In advance of an emergency, we must also work with hospitals to ensure that plans are in place to treat and care for large numbers of patients at one time."

According to DHHS, states were awarded funds to upgrade infectious disease surveillance and investigation systems, enhance the readiness of hospitals and the health care systems to deal with large numbers of casualties, expand public health laboratory and communications capacities and improve connectivity between hospitals and city, local and state health departments to enhance disease reporting.

This is the second year LDH has received funding for bioterrorism preparedness. Last year, more than $16 million was provided to Louisiana to begin bio-readiness efforts.

These funds were used to create and equip Incident Response Teams throughout the state, develop a Syndromic Surveillance System, enhance the Health Alert Network, upgrade biological laboratory capabilities and conduct public education and awareness activities.

For hospital readiness, LDH has used prior year funds to identify a regional network for hospital planning and response, identify a lead hospital and regional coordinator, conduct a needs assessment survey, develop regional response plans and implement medical bio-response training.