PUBLIC HEALTH PREPAREDNESS DIVISION
The Public Health Preparedness Division was formed in 2010. This division was derived from the existing Epidemiology and Bioterrorism Division that was established in 2000. The name change coincided with the introduction of the “Local Core Capacity for Public Health Emergency Preparedness” grant .
Grant funding was made available through the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Grant funding is currently being applied to upgrade countywide public health preparedness for and response to public health threats and emergencies from all hazards, natural and man made.
The responsibilities of this division include; development of emergency response infrastructure, regional terrorism planning, disease surveillance, communication systems, risk communication health education and workforce and community training as part of a state-wide system.
THE LOCAL INFORMATION NETWORK AND COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM (LINCS)
As an integral part of the Middlesex County Public Health Preparedness program, the United States Centers for Disease Control and the New Jersey Department of Health have established a state-wide emergency information communication and dissemination capability. Each county within the state, along with the cities of Newark and Paterson, participates in the provision of public health alerts, bulletins, and other information related to potential public health concerns – with a concentration on infectious disease control and reduction.
Middlesex County’s Emergency Notification System program concentrates on the development and maintenance of emergency contact points with the six primary care hospitals, healthcare facilities, county and local governmental officials, emergency first responder agencies, and medical clinicians. Additional capabilities within the Emergency Notification System provide for a “Geo-Notify” capability in which most homes within a selected geographic area receive event-specific emergency information using voice mail messaging, fax, and e-mail capabilities. Lastly, the NJLINCS and Middlesex County Emergency Notification System can be used for emergency staff recalls, paging, and messaging to support the emergency operating needs of the department. The system allows for important information to be disseminated swiftly for a prompt public health response.
HEALTH EDUCATION/RISK COMMUNICATION
Health Education capabilities are utilized by assessing, implementing and evaluating training needs for the general public, health professionals and community stakeholders; developing educational materials and programs; developing and maintaining the Office of Health Services partnerships; acting as a resource for the MCOHS, other local and county departments, agencies, and organizations.
Risk Communication capabilities include; acting as a media liaison for media inquiries to the department; developing and maintaining contact information for LINCS region; coordinating public information with other departments, agencies and organizations; providing effective risk communication strategies as related to crisis communication; disseminating information to public health and community stakeholders.
PLANNING AND PREPAREDNESS
The Division of Public Health Preparedness, as a team, coordinates the development of “all hazard” plans and tactical operational procedures for acts of terrorism and other public health threats and emergencies. This planning was useful when Super Storm Sandy hit our area in October 2012. Through years of planning and exercising, we were able to respond to the hurricane with a rapid deployment of staff.
MCOHS is building on the success of the First Responder Program with the launch of a companion program targeted at large employers and critical infrastructure. MCOHS launched the Closed POD Program which is also a NJDOH statewide initiative. This program focuses on utilizing existing infrastructures to assist the Office of Health Service with the distribution of antibiotics through a managed program which requires the development of facility distribution plans and the training of their respective employees. MCOHS is continuing its efforts to identify and develop alternative distribution methods that will efficiently distribute oral medications and administer vaccine to our residents during a public health emergency.
The MCOHS is committed to the continued development of action plans and enhancing our multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional relationships to further our mission of safeguarding the public’s health.