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The Strategic National Stockpile Achilles Heel

We have found the problem and it is us!

NPR had a story today on Strategic National Stockpile, see Inside a Secret Government Warehouse Prepped for Health Catastrophes.

It highlights all the capabilities of the stockpile and the types of drugs and other equipment contained therein. It also hit on the Achilles' heel of the system — the distribution point for dispensing the meds contained in the stockpile.

I recall at the start of the program when in King County we did some trial runs (by our Health Department) on running points of distribution. It was slow and tedious work. Even when I was working at the Port of Tacoma, there was interest from the local health department to have the port serve as a point of distribution for employees, longshoremen and their families. I was not able to get the leadership there to buy into the idea. "Why would we do this? When has it ever been needed? What are the liabilities?" The usual naysayer questions from people who don't think anything will ever happen.

I also remember a video showing (if I recall this right) a Denver drill for dispensing where there was one nurse receiving multiple pallets of medicines and the challenge of trying to breakdown the bulk packaging for dispensing the drugs. Then also, the idea of using the U.S. Postal Service to deliver meds to people's homes. I'm not sure that the idea ever went anywhere.

The stockpile is a great idea, what is missing in I'm betting 99 percent of all state and local jurisdictions is a workable plan for dispensing the drugs to people in a timely manner.

Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.