Highlight on Michigan: $5.5M awarded for health emergency preparedness

Michigan is set to receive $5.5 million in funds to support the state’s Special Pathogen Response Network (SPRN) to strengthen responses to public health emergencies. According to an announcement made by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), the funds will be made available to hospitals and life support agencies by the department and the Bureaus of EMS, Trauma and Preparedness (BETP), and Disease Control, Prevention, and Epidemiology. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided $3.2 million of the funding and the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR) provided $2.3 million of the funding that must be used to support planning for the next five years.

According to Nick Lyon, Director of MDHHS, the funding, “will help promote continued situational awareness and state of readiness among our closest partners in the health and preparedness communities.”

Health emergency preparedness

The Division of Emergency Preparedness & Response (DEPR) is the emergency preparedness section of the MDHHS. The purpose of the DEPR is to protect Michigan residents during health emergencies by integrating health and medical preparedness initiatives and by creating diverse partnerships. The DEPR is involved in preparedness planning and in responding to emergencies, which include natural disasters, bioterrorism, outbreaks of infectious diseases, and other public health emergencies.

The DEPR works with local health departments and tribal governments and the MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories and the Bureau of Disease Control, Prevention, and Epidemiology. The state has also established the Michigan Health Alert Network (MIHAN) for tactical communication and the Michigan Prepares website, for risk communication. Additionally, the state participates in the Michigan Strategic National Stockpile Program (MISNS), through which it stockpiles life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. Michigan schools also have an established preparedness and response curriculum, which provides students the resources and tools to prepare for and respond to emergencies.

Special Pathogen Response Network

In addition to the DEPR, Michigan established the SPRN in 2014 to strengthen its response to public health emergencies such as the Ebola virus disease. The network includes a collaboration between MDHSS, various Michigan hospitals, local health departments, life support agencies, and health care coalitions.

The state developed a four-tiered approach to ensure that patients proceed to the correct facilities in the event of a public health emergency. The tiered approach is based on a hospital’s ability to “detect, isolate, notify, and treat or safely transfer patients,” who have or are suspected to have pathogens like Ebola. According to MDHHS, all hospitals in the state have engaged in robust emergency preparedness and response structure. Every hospital that has an emergency department in the state will have a designated tier in the SPRN. Hospitals will be receiving funding to strengthen the SPRN in relation their tier level.

All Tier 1 hospitals have the ability to conduct testing, identification, isolation, and treatment of patients with Ebola. Those hospitals are also eligible to receive transfers from other facilities. The Tier 1 hospitals in Michigan’s system include Detroit Receiving Hospital in Detroit, Spectrum Health-Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, and St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor. These hospitals will provide backup and support to the University of Minnesota Medical Center, which is the HHS Region V Center. The state is also working with remaining Michigan hospitals to set up assessment visits to confirm the remaining 2 through 4 tier levels.

Tier 2 hospitals are treatment centers, like those in Tier 1, but can only accept in-network transfers. This is in contrast to Hospitals in Tier 3 that can only provide care and isolate and identify pathogens while awaiting results of tests. Tier 4 hospitals are limited to identifying, isolating, and transferring individuals for testing.

Dr. Eden Wells, Chief Medical Executive for MDHHS said in a released statement that, “MDHHS is proud to recognize all Michigan hospitals for their partnership, as well as the training and education undertaken to protect against the spread of infectious diseases.” She added, “The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa serves as a reminder of the importance of having prepared healthcare facilities and partners for quickly responding to new, emerging threats.”