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Breaking News: Health-care services funding on the way

by Western News
| July 17, 2009 12:00 AM

The Department of Health and Human Services announced the release of a $6 million grant to provide an increased level of health care for Libby-area residents suffering from asbestos-related illness, Sen. Max Baucus said Friday.

The grant is headed for the Lincoln County Health Department and a consortium of at least three health-care entities to provide services.

“Help for folks in Libby who are victims of asbestos-related disease is on the way and I’m very pleased to see progress being made,” Baucus said. “This funding and the Public Health Emergency determination will really get the ball rolling so Libby residents can move forward towards a bright future.”

Examples of potential consortium members identified by HHS include the Center for Asbestos Related Disease, Lincoln County Community Health Center, St. John’s Lutheran Hospital, or the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.

The Lincoln County Health Department will manage the work of the consortium.

Last month, Baucus and HHS officials joined EPA officials during its announcement of a Public Health Emergency determination for Libby.

The Public Health Emergency determination requires the federal government to provide screenings and health care for Libby residents with asbestos-related disease. The Department of Health and Human Services is making the $6 million available as a short-term grant to provide needed asbestos-related medical care to Libby and Troy residents.

The EPA will also invest an additional $333 million in the ongoing cleanup in Libby.

The grant from HHS serves as part of the federal government’s effort to build the capacity on the ground in Lincoln County to respond to the Public Health Emergency determination.

The Public Health Emergency authorizes cleanup work in homes and other structures as well as requires the federal government to provide screenings and health care for Libby residents with asbestos-related disease.

Baucus is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over HHS, as well as a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the EPA.