Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP)
For the past several years, the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has made public health emergency preparedness (PHEP) funds available to the states in the form of a Cooperative Agreement. PHEP dollars must be distributed regionally; therefore, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) distributes this money through seven regional public health emergency regions. Berkshire County is part of the Region 1 Emergency Preparedness Region, along with Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden Counties. Because of its size, Region 1 is further sub-divided into four emergency preparedness coalitions, largely along county lines. BCBOHA serves as the preparedness coalition in Berkshire County, with Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) as fiscal agent. The four counties of Region 1 regularly collaborate on public health emergency preparedness through the Western Public Health Advisory Group (WAG) and the MRC Advisory Group (MAG). BCBOHA also represents the coalition on the Local/State Advisory Committee (L/SAC) and on the Governing Board of the Health & Medical Coordinating Council (HMCC).
The Public Health Emergency Preparedness Grants began in 2004. The first year of funding focused on supplying local Boards of Health with the equipment to begin the process of preparing for emergencies: computers, printers, etc. Since then, the CDC and MDPH have asked Local Boards of Health to create and refine Emergency Dispensing Site (EDS) Plans, Continuity of Operations Plans (COOP), All Hazards Plans, and Pandemic Flu Plans, as well as work on issues of communication, volunteer recruitment, and mutual aid.
BCBOHA assists Local Boards of Health with these deliverables in several ways. First, in collaboration with other Public Health Coalitions in Western Massachusetts, BCBOHA has created step-by-step templates to guide Boards of Health and communities through the planning process. Second, Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC), as fiscal host for the emergency preparedness coalition, has hired emergency planners to assist Berkshire Boards of Health with their planning. If your community is not currently working with one of BCBOHA’s planners and would like to, please contact BCBOHA. Finally, BCBOHA has written regional emergency plans for the county, has collaborated with the other Western Massachusetts Counties on aspects of preparedness, has participated in regional and statewide planning & response, and has worked to expand the Berkshire Medical Reserve Corps.