|October 4, 2004|
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – In an effort to strengthen the preparedness of the public health system in Illinois, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today called on local health departments throughout the state to approve a mutual aid and assistance pact that provides for the sharing of resources in the event of an act of bioterrorism or other emergency.
“This type of mutual aid agreement will significantly improve the state’s ability to respond in an emergency by pulling together the resources necessary to preserve and protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens,” Blagojevich said. “It is an innovative way for our health system to work collaboratively for the benefit of the public.”
Under terms of the agreement, which is believed to one of the first of its kind in the nation, aid and assistance will be rendered to a stricken area by local health departments who have signed on to the Illinois Public Health Mutual Aid System (IPHMAS) in terms of personnel, equipment, supplies and services. The services and help will be provided at no cost to the area dealing with the emergency and each local health department will be responsible for maintaining their own liability insurance.
The idea of sharing resources has been discussed for nearly five years, but took on more urgency after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Illinois Association of Boards of Health was instrumental in the final push for the agreement over the past two years and legal staff from the Illinois Department of Public Health and attorneys from the Cook, DuPage and Kane county public health departments, and the Chicago and Springfield health departments worked collaboratively to draft the 10-page document. It was patterned after the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) among fire departments and the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS) for law enforcement agencies.
While the threat of bioterrorism was a key impetus, other potential situations include outbreaks or release of contagious or infectious diseases, infectious agents, chemical agents or toxins; natural disasters; technological hazards; man-made disasters; civil emergencies; and community disorders.
“We believe this will be a useful tool for all of us that we can count on when faced with an emergency and it demonstrates a willingness to help each other in the time of need,” said Kay Banta, president of IABH and the Vermilion County Board of Health. “We are pleased to finally have this agreement in place and we have every expectation that local health departments will recognize its importance and approve it.”
Through votes of their governing boards, 33 local health departments have already agreed to participate in IPHMAS and another 19 have it up for consideration. There are 95 certified local health departments in Illinois that range in size from three employees to about 1,600 employees.
Once more than half of the state’s local health departments (48) have approved the mutual aid agreement, a nine-member executive board will be elected to facilitate requests for assistance, gather and analyze data regarding requests and disseminate outcomes information. The Illinois Department of Public Health will appoint two employees from its Office of Preparedness and Response to serve as board liaisons.
“This agreement represents an opportunity for local health departments to support each other in times of need,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “It provides the structure for addressing challenges that may arise and compliments mutual aid systems already in place with fire departments and law enforcement agencies around Illinois.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Click here for a map of those local health departments that have approved IPHMAS and those where it is under consideration
Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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