Feds authorize $15 million to address lead exposure in Flint

WASHINGTON - The Trump administration today signed off on making $15 million available to Genesee County officials to fight the aftereffects of  lead contamination in Flint's drinking water on women, children and families.

The funding -- which was authorized in legislation passed late last year by Congress and signed into law by then-President Barack Obama -- will go to the county's Healthy Start Program, which provides prenatal care, medical screening, and nutrition and other services.

Congress passed more than $120 million in funding for Flint in response to the drinking water crisis there. Lead levels in the drinking water rose sharply beginning in 2014 after the city switched water supplies and the state failed to require corrosion controls to keep lead from leaching from old water pipes throughout Flint.

International attention was focused on Flint after it was learned that lead levels in children's blood had spiked after the change in the water. Lead can damage child brain development and has been linked to behavioral problems, miscarriages and adult illnesses, as well. It can remain in a person's body for decades.

The Genesee County Healthy Start Program will use the funding provided via the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to identify children exposed to contaminated water to assess their health needs, as well as to make health and nutrition services more available and take other actions as needed.

Officials are also expected to coordinate access to medical, behavioral and developmental screening and other services for pregnant women or those considering becoming pregnant and for other families subject to contaminated water.

The announcement by HHS did not detail specific existing or new programs the funding will go toward or include any information for impacted families, but the Genesee County Health Department can be reached at 810-257-3612 or online at http://gchd.us/services/maternalinfant-services/healthy-start.

“The Trump administration is taking important steps to support the residents of Flint, Mich., as the need for vital resources remains critical to the health of their community,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

“We understand the urgency of the situation, and this funding will help connect affected and at-risk Flint residents to comprehensive health and social services proven to mitigate the effects of lead exposure.”

U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, both D-Mich., put out statements saying the Healthy Start money -- which was part of lengthy negotiations with Republicans to get aid to Flint passed by Congress -- will go a long way toward helping families.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat from Flint Township, said word that the Trump administration was moving ahead with the funding was "welcome news."

"Healthy Start funding will go a long way toward helping Flint families and children mitigate the effects of lead poisoning by expanding access to health care and child development services," Kildee said. "Today’s announcement is an important reminder that the water crisis is not over."

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© 2017 Detroit Free Press


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