SPRINGFIELD– 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,” Gov. 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 be 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 department 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.”
IPHMAS AGREEMENT STATUS (As of October 4, 2004)
Carroll County Health Department
Clark County Health Department
Clay County Health Department
Crawford County Health Department
Cumberland County Health Dept.
DeKalb County Health Department
Dewitt-Piatt Bi-County Health Dept.
Douglas County Health Department
East Side Health District
Egyptian Health Department
Evanston Health Department
Fayette County Health Department
Ford-Iroquois Public Health Dept.
Franklin-Williams Bi-Cty. Health Dept.
Hancock County Health Department
Knox County Health Department
Lawrence County Health Department
Logan County Health Department
Macoupin County Health Department
Madison County Health Department
McDonough County Health Department
Oak Park Department of Public Health
Rock Island County Health Department
Sangamon Cty. Dept. of Public Health
Springfield Department of Public Health
Stephenson County Health Department
Stickney Township Public Health Dist.
Tazewell County Health Department
Vermilion County Health Department
Washington County Health Department
Wayne County Health Department
Whiteside County Health Department
Woodford County Health Department
Bureau County Health Department
Fulton County Health Department
Greene County Health Department
Grundy County Health Department
Hamilton County Health Department
Jo Daviess County Health Department
Lake County Health Department
LaSalle County Health Department
Macon County Health Department
McLean County Health Department
Menard County Health Department
Monroe-Randolph Bi-Cty. Health Dept.
Montgomery County Health Department
Ogle County Health Department
Peoria City/County Health Department
Putnam County Health Department
St. Clair County Health Department
Will County Health Department
Winnebago County Health Department