06/18/07 — Health Department will test mass medication response

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Health Department will test mass medication response

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 18, 2007 1:45 PM

An exercise in emergency preparedness is planned for later this month, geared toward the mass dispensing of medication, according to local health officials.

Wayne County Health Department scheduled the drill for June 28 at Southern Wayne High School in Dudley. The department's main goal is to be better prepared for a community disease outbreak or public health emergency.

"In the midst of a health emergency, Wayne County must have a system in place to rapidly distribute medicine to thousands of people," explained James Roosen, health director.

Since the local health department is charged with the task of making sure medications are available in such an emergency, Roosen said the exercise will allow the county to practice putting resources in place as well as to test the effectiveness of its response.

The drill, expected to last throughout the morning and into the afternoon, will use volunteers from community agencies as well as other health departments to serve as participants. They will be tested on interagency communication, mass dispensing of the medication and mass risk communication.

Such emergency preparedness events stem from the establishment of the Strategic National Stockpile, or SNS, by the Centers for Disease Control in 1999. Its purpose is to provide an inventory of medications and medical supplies available to send to a location in case of a large infectious disease outbreak or other health emergency.

The key to arrival and dispensation of the supplies is having proper procedures in place, officials said.

"Because the June 28 exercise will focus around an incident requiring us to mass dispense medications, we will be able to test several parts of the county's SNS plan," Roosen said.

While the exercise is going on in the southern end of the county, residents and motorists in the surrounding area are being advised to use an alternate route or expect traffic delays, especially along alternate U.S. 117 near the high school.

"Safety is our top priority and with the public's help, this exercise can be both safe and successful not only for the participants, but the community members driving by," said David Hesselmeyer, Wayne County bioterrorism/preparedness coordinator.