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Report: Government Cuts Jeopardizing Disaster Preparedness

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Hazmat (CBS)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — The state of Illinois is coming up short when it comes to preparing for emergencies – at least when looked at it in terms of government spending.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Dahl reports, the Trust for America’s Health has put out a report titled, “Ready or Not? 2011,” measuring preparedness for bioterrorism, disease outbreaks, and natural or accidental disasters.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Dahl reports

Preparedness for all those risks is being jeopardized by state and federal budget cuts, the report says.

Because of the cuts, 51 out of 72 participating cities could be forced to end their involvement with in the Cities Readiness Initiative, which supports rapid distribution and administration of vaccines.

Also, all 10 state labs with a “level 1” chemical testing status are at risk for cuts that could leave the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the only such lab in the country, the report says.

The CDC itself could also find itself unable to mount an adequate response to a nuclear, chemical or radiologic threat, or a natural disaster, because of cuts to the National Center for Environmental Health.

“We’re seeing a decade’s worth of progress eroding in front of our eyes,” Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health, said in a news release.

Government bodies seems to have lost interest in disaster preparedness, said Rich Hamburg of the trust.

“After the pandemic flu outbreak, we saw billions of dollars invested by the federal government, which was money that was much-needed; the same thing after Hurricane Katrina and other public health emergencies,” Hamburg said. “But what we really need is year-to-year ongoing funding – preparedness, prevention is a much more important investment than simply reacting to an emergency.”

In Illinois specifically, the University of Illinois could lose support for its preparedness and research training center, as could all the other institutions that host such centers.

But one minor piece of good news – Chicago is not among the 51 cities that could be eliminated from the Cities Readiness Initiative.

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