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Romney Proposes $36.5M in Funding for Pandemic Preparedness

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As Massachusetts accelerates and intensifies its planning efforts to deal with an influenza pandemic, Governor Mitt Romney today announced that he is filing legislation to spend $36.5 million to prepare for and respond to a widespread disease outbreak.

Romney made the announcement during a summit meeting on pandemic influenza planning and response with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt and Massachusetts public health officials, business and community leaders.

"Of all the many hazards we face, a pandemic has the unique potential to disrupt our lives, our health care system and our economy," Romney said. "We have to make sure Massachusetts is coordinated and equipped to effectively monitor outbreaks, slow the spread of disease, provide care to those who become sick and continue to provide critical government services."

Late last year, Massachusetts received the highest ranking among all New England states for its ability to respond to a public health emergency, but Romney has pushed for even stronger action from state agencies. During today's summit, he announced that the $36.5 million supplemental budget request he is filing would help Massachusetts meet its immediate needs for pandemic preparedness. The funds would bolster the state's already proactive efforts to prepare for a public health emergency by:

* Building a network of volunteer medical providers to boost front line hospital staff;
* Enhancing hospital surge capacity;
* Upgrading state laboratories; and
* Developing stockpiles of medications, food and supplies.

In addition to Governor Romney and Secretary Leavitt, summit speakers included George Foresman with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Alfred DeMaria, Director of the state's Bureau of Communicable Disease Control. State public health officials, government leaders and industry representatives also participated in a panel discussion considering approaches to cross-sector pandemic planning.

"Today's summit is a perfect opportunity not only to learn what the state is doing to protect the health of its citizens but to also recognize the tremendous work that has been done at the community level by our local public health leaders and hospital partners," said Paul J. Cote Jr., Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Significant efforts have been underway in Massachusetts to prepare for public health emergencies with a major focus on preparing for an influenza pandemic. At Romney's urging, all state agencies, health providers and hospitals have been working to develop and improve their Continuity of Operations Plans (COOPs) to ensure that critical functions and services are not interrupted in the event of a major health crisis.

"It is important for Massachusetts to continuously test and update its plans to respond to emergencies that might occur," said Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, who addressed summit attendees about local planning strategies. "We are grateful to Secretary Leavitt for his support of our preparedness efforts and for helping the Commonwealth coordinate with our partners across the state. These local relationships strengthen our ability to respond to pandemic flu as well as other types of crises."

An influenza pandemic is a global outbreak that occurs when a new type of flu emerges for which people have little or no immunity and for which there is no vaccine. It surfaces and spreads easily and rapidly from person to person, and can sweep across the country and around the world in very short time.

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