COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A multi-million-dollar federal grant is on its way to Columbus Public Health (CPH) with the city’s health commissioner saying it will help make some significant differences.

The grant, worth a little more than $9 million, will be handed out over a five-year period.

Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said the pandemic is part of the reason the grant became a reality.

Some of CPH’s most visible work has come in the last few years, with community members turning to the department for drive-through COVID-19 testing, take-home test kits, and vaccines.

“I think it played a significant role because, before the pandemic, many people didn’t know about public health,” Roberts said.

Roberts said one of the big reasons for the creation of the grant was the pandemic. The $9 million is coming from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and according to the CDC, the public health system nationwide has been underinvested for decades and this will help strengthen it.

“Public health has kind of been forgotten until this pandemic happened, and people realized, ‘Oh, wow, public health is needed. We need them and we haven’t been funding them properly, and so they need some catch-up dollars in order to catch up and then we can start maintaining them once they’ve caught up,’” she said.

According to Roberts, the state is also getting funding from this program, but CHP is the only local health department in Ohio to be receiving this grant. She describes it as a silver lining of the last few years.

“And I hope there’s even more silver linings to come and I hope that it’s not just a one time and done,” she said.

Roberts said the money will mostly go towards three main areas: overall infrastructure, getting new employees at CPH, and keeping the ones they have.

“I think it could make some significant differences to the wellbeing of our staff as well as recruiting some really new staff who might not have thought about public health,” Roberts said.

CPH is still finalizing how exactly the money will be used, with Roberts saying employees are excited to see how the funding changes and improves the health department over the next five years.