Homeland Security Formalizes Pharmacist Response Teams
Pharmacists, pharmacy students, and pharmacy technicians not already involved in federal emergency-response efforts can now help the government respond to large-scale disasters, thanks to a formal agreement signed December 8, 2003, by representatives of the Department of Homeland Security and six national pharmacy organizations, including ASHP.
The signing of the agreement "marks a very exciting time in the emergency medical field, to bring one additional resource to the table to serve our country during times of need," said Eric Tolbert, director of the Response Division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Tolbert's division manages the National Disaster Medical System, which became part of Homeland Security in March 2003.
The system, he explained, is actually a partnership among the departments of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services (HHS), Defense, and Veterans Affairs and the private sector and is intended to provide medical support to communities affected by disasters.
By signing the agreement, the six organizations in the Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners Working Group on Emergency Preparedness agreed to establish one National Pharmacist Response Team in each of the 10 FEMA regions.
Negotiations between the working group and the government began in mid-2002, when HHS headed the effort to recruit pharmacy personnel as federal volunteers. That responsibility transferred to Homeland Security when it assumed responsibility for several national incident-support functions, including the National Strategic Stockpile.
The nation's need for disaster-response teams of pharmacy personnel was confirmed by the recent "tabletop" federal drill known as Scarlet Cloud, which, according to a December 28 New York Times article, showed that some cities could not quickly distribute and administer antiinfectives and vaccines after a terrorist attack with aerosolized anthrax spores.
According to the agreement with Homeland Security, the pharmacy organizations will be responsible for recruiting team members, ensuring that they receive appropriate training at least once a year, collaborating with local and state emergency management and public health agencies to ensure that they are familiar with the teams, and helping the federal government annually verify the credentials of team members.
For its part, the government will assist in organizing the teams; develop their equipment, supply, and personnel requirements; produce and distribute a team handbook; and provide some of the supplies and equipment.
Members of a team will be considered intermittent federal employees. When a team is activated by Homeland Security, members will be provided with professional liability coverage for the federal assignment, recognition of active licensure regardless of state of origin, a salary, and reimbursement of travel and housing expenses.
Tolbert said about 200 pharmacy personnel had already submitted applications to join a National Pharmacist Response Team.
"We hope," said ASHP President Daniel M. Ashby, who represented the Society at the signing ceremony, "to sign up at least 1500 more pharmacists to serve on the response teams for the 10 regions."
Representing the other signatory parties to the memorandum of agreement were Bruce Canaday, a member of the American Pharmacists Association board of trustees; C.E. "Gene" Reeder, immediate past president of the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy; John A. Bosso, president of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy; Robert A. Kerr, president of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy; and Christopher Decker, president of the National Council of State Pharmaceutical Association Executives.
The signing ceremony occurred during the Opening General Session at the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting in New Orleans in 2003.
Pharmacy personnel interested in joining a team must complete and submit the "Application Forms" and "Appointment Forms" available at www.oep-ndms.dhhs.gov/forms.html. The forms are to be sent to the administrative officer for the applicant's region (see table). Complete processing of the forms could take about eight weeks.
National Pharmacist Response Team Administrative Officers
|I: CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT
Regional capital: Boston
48 Bradford Commons, U.48
Braintree, MA 02184
|II: NY, NJ, PR, VI
Regional capital: New York City
2210 N. 7th Street
Canon City, CO 81212
|III: DC, DE, MD, PA, VA, WV
Regional capital: Washington, DC
300 East Main Street, Suite 1000
Norfolk, VA 23510-9109
|IV: AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN
Regional capital: Atlanta
16349 N.W. 12th Street
Pembroke Pines, FL 33028
|V: IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI
Regional capital: Chicago
|Tina M. Spence
2208 Kozelek Road
Rosholt, WI 54473t
|VI: AR, LA, NM, OK, TX
Regional capital: Houston
4207 Denison Street
Muskogee, OK 74401
|VII: IA, KS, MO, NE
Regional capital: Kansas City, MO
1900 W. Sunshine Street
Springfield, MO 65801
|VIII: CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY
Regional capital: Denver
240 Waterfowl Way
Lander, WY 82520
|IX: AZ, CA, HI, NV
Regional capital: Los Angeles
P.O. Box 186C
Tsaile, AZ 86556
|X: AK, ID, OR, WA
Regional capital: Seattle
23615 Mt. Olivet Road
Easton, KS 66020