The National Governors Association recently announced that the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is among five states and territories selected to participate in the NGA Center for Best Practices’ Public Health Preparedness and Response Workshop for State and Territorial Gubernatorial and Legislative Leadership.
The CNMI is the only territory to be selected, while Minnesota, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Washington have been selected as well for participation in a workshop that will develop strategic action plans to implement during public health emergencies.
Natural and human-caused public health disasters can overwhelm states’ emergency response capabilities, which may result in widespread injury or loss of life. States not only have to plan and respond to diseases of national significance, such as Ebola and the Zika virus, but also confront other public health threats resulting from typhoons, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, water supply contamination and other hazards.
In early April, the CNMI Office of the Governor and the Commonwealth Health Care Corp. jointly submitted the application to the National Governors Association in order to empower our public health system to develop a stronger response and recovery preparedness plan in the event of an emergency or disaster. This workshop supports only up to five states and territories through a competitive selection process.
The impact of Super Typhoon Yutu in late October 2018 prompted CNMI leadership to take a proactive approach in responding to future disasters for the Marianas.
Super Typhoon Yutu has been categorized as the largest storm in United States history since 1935, bringing winds and gusts up to 200 miles per hour on the islands of Saipan and Tinian here in the CNMI. This caused major damage to homes and businesses, displacing many residents, and brought the economy to a standstill for about two months. Damage assessments found that 532 homes were destroyed and 430 homes suffered major damage. Moreover, the Commonwealth Health Center, the CNMI’s only hospital, tended to about 133 people who were admitted to the hospital due to storm-related injuries, as well as providing medical assistance to the approximately 832 residents in shelters across the three islands.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres expressed his appreciation to the National Governors Association for this selection and to the Commonwealth Health Care Corp. for their partnership and leadership to develop a stronger policy framework for emergency response in the CNMI.
“Our goal is to strengthen intergovernmental coordination and implementation of activities in response to future disasters in the CNMI. Our primary objective through this technical assistance opportunity focuses on enhancing National Response Framework Emergency Support Functions related to mass care support and public health and medical services,” Torres said.
“Given the CNMI’s lack of temporary housing options due to the ongoing recovery, we believe it is a critical public need to offer our residents options for mass care to support management of arising health conditions during a disaster and to ensure our regulations and laws are responsive to the changing needs,” he added.
“CHCC is grateful for the leadership and support from the Governor’s Office and colleagues at Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Services as we partner to improve our public health response in times of disasters,” said CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña.
“This grant from the National Governors Association will afford CNMI the opportunity to leverage technical expertise across the Commonwealth through coordination from CHCC. The capacity development within CNMI agencies will benefit all CNMI residents,” Muña added.
The NGA workshop is an opportunity for governors, legislators and key state staff to gain greater awareness of policy solutions to mitigate the consequences of public health emergencies. During the workshop, state teams will have access to national experts through virtual meetings and regular conference calls with NGA staff and partner organizations. The workshop will take place June 25-26.
This project is funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To learn more about the NGA Homeland Security and Public Safety Division, visit www.nga.org/bestpractices/divisions/hsps/. (PR)