October 24, 2007

CARDIN, MIKULSKI ANNOUNCE NEARLY $5.5 MILLION FOR MARYLAND MEDICAL FACILITIES IN SPENDING BILL

Includes increased funding for national nursing, women's health and seniors programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (both D-Md.) today announced the Senate has approved the fiscal year 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education spending bill, which includes nearly $5.5 million for Maryland medical facilities.  The bill includes additional federal funding for priority nurse training facilities, women's health initiatives and seniors programs, as well as critical increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Institute on Aging and the National Cancer Institute.

STRENGTHENING NURSING PROGRAMS

"America is facing a nursing shortage, and it is only getting worse.  The shortage affects every state, every city, every town - and it affects our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq who rely on the care of our military nurses," said Senator Mikulski, a long-time champion of nursing programs.    "Increasing our nursing workforce is essential for our hospitals and for our patients.  I will continue to fight to make nursing a priority in the federal law book and the federal checkbook."

"Nurses are the backbone of our health care system," said Senator Cardin.  "The nursing shortage in America has reached a critical state.  The outlook becomes even more grim as the population ages and health care resources are further strained.  I applaud the Senate for funding programs that address this important issue." 

The bill provides $169 million for nursing programs, a $20 million increase despite the President=s budget request of only $105.3 million.  Senators Mikulski and Cardin also fought for an additional $1.45 million for Maryland medical institutions dedicated to addressing the nationwide nursing and nurse faculty shortage:

-- $1 million for the University of Maryland at Baltimore's Nursing Institute to establish an institute for nurse educators to prepare nurses and health professionals for teaching roles.

-- $450,000 for the Maryland Hospital Association's Nursing Lattice Program to establish a program that will work with health care employers and community colleges to prepare certified nursing assistants to become Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and LPNs to become Registered Nurses (RN).  The program will also train less skilled workers for health care careers.

STANDING UP FOR WOMEN'S HEALTH

"I will not stop my fight to ensure that research and standards are developed to further discoveries for women's health.  I will continue to stand sentry to make sure women are taken care of across the country," said Senator Mikulski.  "We must make sure women have the information they need, that doctors have the best tools and the best training, that low-income, uninsured women have access to health care, and that we remain steadfast on research."

"This bill contains a strong commitment to improve the health of American women by providing resources for technology and equipment to better detect, diagnose, and treat breast cancer," said Senator Cardin.  "This commitment must not waiver, and I remain dedicated to ensuring that we provided the resources that are needed to make sure women have access to quality health care."

The bill provides $30.3 million for the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Women's Health, a $3 million increase from last year.  The Senators also secured federal funding to help Baltimore-area medical facilities purchase necessary mammography equipment for the early detection and reduction of breast cancer: St. Agnes Hospital ($850,000), Mercy Medical Center ($850,000) and Northwest Hospital ($375,000).

OLDER AMERICANS ACT (OAA)

"Seniors today are living longer, healthier lives.  We must do what we can to help them be as independent and active as possible, and provide the resources necessary to meet new challenges," said Senator Mikulski, who is also the Chairwoman of the Retirement Security and Aging Subcommittee of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.  "By passing the Older Americans Act (OAA), we honored one of our responsibilities to our seniors.  I will continue to make sure we provide a federal investment in these programs."

"America is graying.  The population of Americans over age 65 will nearly double over the next 20 years," said Senator Cardin.  "We have a responsibility to ensure that seniors have every resource available to remain vital.  The Older Americans Act does that by helping seniors live healthier, more productive lives."

The OAA, which was reauthorized by Congress and signed into law last year, is essential for the delivery of social and nutritional services for America's seniors, including the information and referral services that are the backbone of OAA programs, senior nutrition programs, and elder abuse programs.  The bill provides a total $1.4 billion, a $58.5 million increase over fiscal year 2007, and $106.4 million above the President's budget request.

This year's spending bill also includes funding for the following Maryland projects:

-- $500,000 for Lifebridge Health in Baltimore to implement the Computerized Physician Order Entry Initiative.  This digital-based system will dramatically improve patient care services with its principal focus the reduction of medical errors.

-- $375,000 for Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring to upgrade its neuroscience capabilities with the purchase of bi-plane angiography equipment to significantly improve precision and reduce treatment time.

-- $350,000 for the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury at the Kennedy-Krieger Institute in Baltimore to purchase a MRI machine to improve patient diagnosis and care.

-- $350,000 for Johns Hopkins University's Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) program in Baltimore to develop and organize a regional medical response for potential bioterror or natural disasters that could be replicated at other academic medical centers across the country.

-- $350,000 for Carroll County Youth Services Bureau (CCYSB) to establish a mental health service program for youth.  CCYSB uses a multi-disciplinary approach to deliver prevention, intervention and treatment services in the least restrictive and most cost-effective manner to the medically underserved residents of Carroll County.

Senator Mikulski is a member of the Appropriations Committee.  Senator Cardin is a member of the Budget Committee.

In the next step of the legislative process, the House and Senate will meet in Conference Committee to work out the differences between the two versions of the bill.  The Conference report will then be voted on by both Houses of Congress.  Once passed by the House and Senate, the spending bill will go to the President for his signature.