To better California's emergency preparedness and health services, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 162 Thursday which establishes a new California Department of Public Health within the Health and Human Services Agency, effective July 1, 2007. The governor will appoint a State Public Health Officer, who must be a licensed physician or surgeon to head the department.

According to Schwarzenegger, this reorganization will increase accountability and will result in a tightly focused organizational structure. The Department of Public Health will be able to more effectively address the pressing public health concerns of bioterrorism; infectious diseases, such as avian flu; health challenges and chronic diseases such as AIDS; as well as responsiveness.

"In California, we face earthquakes, forest fires, as well as threats of terrorism and disease outbreaks, like pandemic flu. The clear message of all these threats is simple: 'Be Ready,'" said Schwarzenegger. "This new Department of Public Health is another way to strengthen our state's emergency preparedness."

Along with the Bill signing, the governor announced a $9 million state and local Homeland Security grant to expand a high-speed lab at the University of California, Los Angeles. The UCLA High Speed, High Volume Laboratory Network will do quick analysis of biological samples, improving the response times to outbreaks or biological threats such as avian flu. "I think we need to do everything we can to keep our people safe," Schwarzenegger added.

Gina M. Scott  |  Writer