FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 23, 2011
Contact: HHS Press Office
HHS Secretary Declares Public Health Emergency for Missouri
U.S Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has declared a public health emergency for Missouri in the aftermath of severe storms and tornadoes which struck the state Sunday night. The action will enable the Secretary to ensure that beneficiaries of the Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), continue to receive services during this emergency.
“Our hearts go out to the people of Joplin and the surrounding communities affected by last night’s tornadoes,” said Secretary Sebelius. “We are working closely with our state partners and community organizations to provide the support needed to respond to this disaster and in the ongoing flood recovery in the region.”
The public health emergency is declared under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act and is necessary so that HHS may waive or modify certain Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP requirements under section 1135 of the Social Security Act. The state can submit waiver requests through Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Regional Office.
Under section 1135, HHS may permit affected health care facilities in Missouri to relax certain operating procedures temporarily so health care services can be delivered, such as allowing critical access hospitals to take more than the statutorily mandated limit of 25 patients and not count the expected longer lengths of stay for evacuated patients against the 96-hour average.
HHS agencies are working with state agencies and regional networks to respond to public health and medical needs of impacted communities. The HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is providing National Disaster Medical System assets to support the state and local health agencies in responding to the disaster.
A Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Assessment Team has deployed to Missouri to work with the state and local coroners and medical examiners in determining the full extent of federal mortuary resources that may be needed. A Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team and a Family Assistance Center Team will provide assistance to coroners, medical examiners and families in identifying victims and returning remains to their loved ones. In addition, ASPR will provide a Disaster Portable Morgue Unit to support local mortuary operations.
An incident management team from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working with state and local health departments to assist with inspections of FDA-regulated industries, such as food processing facilities and pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, impacted by the tornadoes to ensure the safety of FDA-regulated products.
An Incident Response Coordination Team will make sure federal public health and medical teams have what they need to assist the state at this critical time. This team is the “on the ground” command-and-control for federal public health and medical assets.
Information on steps to protect health immediately after a tornado or to prepare for disasters is available at http://www.phe.gov. Today’s Public Health Emergency declarations are available at http://www.hhs.gov/secretary/phe05232011.html.
Note: All HHS news releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.
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Last revised: May 23, 2011