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October 18, 2007

Illinois Terrorism Task Force member receives national award for spearheading development of Illinois’ public health mutual aid system
Stephen Laker of the Vermilion County Health Department recognized for work on system that provides support to local public health agencies during emergencies

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois Terrorism Task Force (ITTF) member Stephen E. Laker, M.S., L.E.H.P., Administrator of the Vermilion County Health Department in Danville, was recently honored by the American Public Health Association (APHA) with the 2007 Milton and Ruth Roemer Prize for Creative Local Public Health Work in recognition of his leadership and work on the development of the Illinois Public Health Mutual Aid System (IPHMAS).  The award recognizes a local health officer who has demonstrated exceptional and innovative work in the field of public health.

“The Illinois Public Health Mutual Aid System is a key component in Illinois’ overall preparedness for major disasters,” said Mike Chamness, ITTF chairman.  “In conjunction with mutual aid in the law enforcement, fire services and emergency management areas, the public health mutual aid strengthens the state’s ability to handle major bioterrorism or other large-scale public health emergencies.  Stephen was the driving force behind the development of Illinois’ public health mutual aid system, which was one of the first in the nation and is viewed as a national model.  We are deeply grateful to Stephen for his hard work and dedication to this project, and are happy to see him receive this recognition of which he is most deserving.”

The IPHMAS was created in 2004 and today 94 public health departments throughout the state belong to the mutual aid system.  Under terms of the agreement, aid and assistance will be rendered to a stricken area by local health departments who have signed on to the IPHMAS in terms of personnel, equipment, supplies and services. The services and help will be provided at no cost to the area dealing with the emergency and each local health department will be responsible for maintaining their own liability insurance.  IPHMAS was most recently activated to assist with a hepatitis A outbreak in Kane County in May 2007.

Laker has represented the Illinois Association of Public Health Administrators on the ITTF for seven years.  The ITTF develops and implements the state’s homeland security strategy.


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