Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Local terror response boosted



By Matt Leingang
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ohio's level of bioterror preparedness rests on the shoulders of local health departments, the state's top public health official said Monday.

Dr. J. Nick Baird, director of the Ohio Department of Health, spoke in Cincinnati at the annual meeting of the Hamilton County District Advisory Council.

"We in Columbus are committed to making sure that you have the resources you need to handle incidents that, unfortunately, you may have to deal with," he said.

Baird addressed the 30-member advisory council at the Mill Race Banquet Center.

The council selects members of the Hamilton County General Health District Board of Health.

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the federal government has channeled about $2 billion to state governments to prepare for acts of bioterrorism - and to combat infectious-disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies. Ohio has received about $46 million from the Department of Heath and Human Services.

All 50 states now have bioterrorism response plans and most, including Ohio, have made major upgrades to their emergency communications systems, Baird said.

But Baird said local planning is critical. Local police, fire and public health departments will be the first responders to any act of bioterrorism, and he urged continued cooperation among three departments that hadn't always worked closely together before 9-11.

Also Monday, the advisory council appointed Mark A. Rippe to the Hamilton County Board of Health. Rippe, who is president and chief executive officer of Nisbet Investment Corp., will serve a five-year term.

Rippe replaces John Phillips, who served 10 years on the board and decided not to seek another term.

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E-mail mleingang@enquirer.com




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