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DHSS launches dashboard so public can track COVID-19 spending

by Joe Gamm | January 27, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Courtesy of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

State health officials have launched a dashboard intended to let the public explore how nearly $1.2 billion in federal funding is benefiting the health of Missourians.

Federal funding has reached deep into local communities, making families, communities and schools healthier and safer.

The new dashboard shows that Cole County received numerous packages of federal aid.

In Cole County alone, funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provided revenue to feed seniors, distributed vaccinations to seniors and supplied families with fresh fruits and vegetables. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act paid for summer feeding programs, funded increased family caregiver services and monitored indicators associated with epidemiology, laboratory services and informatics (use of data).

The Families First funding source allowed "the Area Agencies on Aging to provide vital programs and services while experiencing increased costs for nutrition services, transportation, staffing and other similar functions while not putting anyone on a wait list," according to the dashboard. "(Area Agencies on Aging) were also able to add additional individuals to their services in order to help keep them safe, healthy and independent while they were isolating due to COVID-19. Some (agencies) were able to start new programs and services or change their program and service delivery type to meet the needs of individuals self-isolating due to COVID-19."

Other Coronavirus Response and Relief funding provided numerous services for seniors in Cole County, and included improvement and expansion of the ability of Adult Protective Services to investigate allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation in the context of COVID-19, according to the dashboard.

Another benefit to Cole County was Paycheck Protection's grant to develop, purchase, administer, process and analyze COVID-19 tests, conduct surveillance and trace contacts.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services announced the dashboard launch Tuesday. "How is COVID-19 funding making a difference in our communities?" may be found at

The public health dashboard compliments the statewide American Rescue Plan Act dashboard by showing funding from seven federal funding acts, including ARPA, CARES Act and others. The ARPA dashboard may be found at

The DHSS dashboard will help explain where COVID-19 public health funding is headed.

It is accompanied by five multimedia pages, which highlight innovations supported by funding. Additional pages are expected to be added over the next few months to showcase projects within local public health agencies, Area Agencies on Aging and other critical partners.

The pages include:

• Vital Records, the first multimedia page explains how Missouri's Bureau of Vital Records has for 113 years been tasked with preserving and assuring birth and death records, maintaining a central marriage registry and 17 other responsibilities.

The bureau issues more than a million vital records and thousands of corrections and amendments to records. It also operates four call centers, which take 90,000 calls annually. Many records remain on the media in which they were first recorded.

Team members navigate through books, microfilm and index cards to find records that are not stored digitally. It can take days to find specific records. Funding being used by Vital Records is allowing the records to be installed in a robust digital system.

• Testing Speed, the second multimedia page, explains how funding allows the state to obtain new equipment to automate processes, and increased speed and capacity at the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory.

During the pandemic, the team at the laboratory desperately wanted to increase speed and capacity to keep up with demand. Its Virology Unit expanded its testing through two machines. The BioFire Troch FilmArray system allows for batch testing for respiratory organisms, gastrointestinal bacteria and even some parasite testing.

The DiaSorin Liaison XL machine can condense multiple testing systems and allow for increased speeds of around 170 samples an hour for some tests.

• Disease monitoring, the third multimedia page, shows how improved equipment combined with a new partnership with MU enhanced Missouri's ability to track diseases and variants.

"Disease data can tell a story," the page says. "That story can help us predict how viruses are moving through our communities."

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, need for that capability was limited. The quickly mutating SARS-CoV-2 virus meant that accurate tracking of new variants was necessary; however, the infrastructure and data processing required to do that didn't exist at the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory.

The state lab received funding to purchase new equipment and partner with the University of Missouri Bioinformatics Core for the development of an infrastructure for Missouri. This agreement will allow MU to provide state-of-the-art bioinformatics services to Missourians through the state lab. MU's role with this partnership will allow its team to analyze data and provide an in-depth review of information that is collected.

• Another multimedia page looks at the Closed-Loop Recycling program, which created laboratory supplies during extreme supply chain disruptions.

The Missouri State Public Health Laboratory created supplies by recycling 1,500 pounds of plastic waste, according to the page.

"The COVID-19 pandemic brought many disruptions to supply chains across the globe, and the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory was no stranger to those challenges at a time when testing demand was at an all-time high," it states. "The stakes were high. Ultimately, finding a solution in the midst of a global pandemic meant Missourians could rely on testing resources here at home."

• The final page, Improving Nutrition, explains the Missouri Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program increased funding for fruits and vegetables and will build a digital data dashboard.

When classrooms and day cares began shutting their doors because of COVID-19, WIC leaders across the nation saw a need to provide supplemental nutrition to women, infants and children -- and they needed to do it quickly, according to the page.

"Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber which makes them an important part of a balanced diet for kids," said Tricia Nilges, nutrition coordinator for the Cole County Health Department. "Eating plenty throughout the day, and in general, helps keep them healthy and helps reduce certain diseases."

Missouri WIC applied for and received funding to build a digital data dashboard to be used by WIC retailers, local agencies and the public to broaden awareness of WIC participation data. The initiative is intended to identify areas of low participation through the creation of publicly-accessible dashboards.

"Public health is worth investing in," said, Paula Nickelson, acting director of DHSS. "We know that with an increase in funding, we must also increase our ability to transparently reflect where that money is going and how it is benefiting Missourians. This influx of funding represents a unique, unprecedented opportunity to use short-term funding to enhance systems and impact the public's health for generations."

The Missouri COVID-19 funding dashboard has tabs that allow a user to see where each federal funding stream is being used in Missouri health. For example, the state received $419.7 million from ARPA for health funding (about 36 percent of all federal COVID-19 funding for health in Missouri). Of that, about $184.8 million was used for "Reopening K-12 Schools," according to the dashboard.

That money was used to support comprehensive screening testing for K-12 schools -- both public and private. "A key goal of this initiative is to establish screening testing programs in schools in April 2021, extending through the end of the school year and into summer activities and subsequent school years," the page showed.

Digging deeper, individual projects included itemized included efforts in Boone and Callaway counties to safely keep doors open through the implementation of COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

Or, readers could look at data about revenue received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Missouri received about $109 million through the act.

About $62.2 million was used for child nutrition.

Cole County received revenue through the act to pay for Summer Food Service and the Child and Adult Care Food programs. Money was to be used between March 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021.

Readers may also conduct a search by county, to find listings of all federal coronavirus funding initiatives that affected their counties.

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