Hamilton County Health Commissioner, Tim Ingram, participates in a POD exercise.

In the event of a public health emergency such as a biological release or a pandemic flu where mass prophylaxis is required, HCPH’s Emergency Preparedness (EP) Division has developed mass dispensing and distribution plans (also called the Medical Countermeasure [MCM] Readiness Program) to provide pill or vaccine medication to the communities that it serves.

The MCM Readiness Program collaborates with many agencies to provide Point of Dispensing (POD) orientation training, technical assistance and exercise development support and coordination to the community to ensure they are prepared to dispense medication to the community in the event of a public health emergency.

HCPH’s EP Division manages MCM readiness for over 480,000 citizens that it serves in Hamilton County. The EP Division collaborates with numerous agencies such as Hamilton County Emergency Management & Homeland Security Agency (EMHSA), Hamilton County Sheriff, Great Parks of Hamilton County, numerous jurisdictional fire and police departments, skilled nursing facilities and many local businesses to ensure MCM plans are up to date, coordinated and exercised in preparation for a potential public health emergency.

HCPH has collaborated with the 45 communities that it serves to establish 35 ‘open’ points of dispensing (POD) sites to dispense medications to its citizens around Hamilton County. HCPH opted to set up multiple POD sites throughout the county because we feel in the event of a public health emergency, people will be more comfortable going to a location that is close to their home and one that is in a location they are familiar with.

Having 35 ‘open’ POD sites has many unique challenges, but the biggest challenge is how to staff these POD sites since HCPH only employs about 100 staff members. HCPH’s EP Division has worked to establish collaboration, trust and strong partnerships with the fire and police departments and the local governments in each of the communities in which the ‘open’ POD sites have been planned. These agencies provide the primary and backup POD Managers at each of the POD sites and support staff are volunteers from the community, volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and a cache of Hamilton County employees. The POD Managers manage the operation component of the dispensing campaign and HCPH provides at least one staff member to fill the role of POD Liaison between the POD site and the agency’s Department Operations Center (DOC) during the emergency.

To reduce the volume of people that would go to an ‘open’ POD site, HCPH has signed memorandums of understanding (MOU) with 49 skilled nursing facilities to provide medications for their staff, staff’s families and their residents. These facilities include long-term care facilities, hospice centers and Alzheimer facilities. These ‘closed’ skilled nursing facility PODs account for approximately 40,000 people in the county.

HCPH has signed MOUs with 8 businesses such as General Electric, Goodwill, Rumpke and Procter & Gamble, to provide medication for their staff and staff’s families. These ‘closed’ business PODs account for approximately 100,000 people.

HCPH’s EP Division has developed POD Notebooks for each POD site that describes how to operate the POD. The POD Notebooks are reviewed and updated on an annual basis. HCPH has performed security assessments at each POD site and planned for redundant communications to ensure we can communicate with all facilities. We are also trained to use an inventory management system to track the medications as they are being dispensed.

Each POD Site is provided POD Orientation Training. The training consists of an overview of the history of the POD program, how a POD works, a description of each POD station and how a POD will be activated.