March 11, 2016
HHS deploys Assistant Surgeon General to serve as temporary Senior Advisor to Flint Mayor
FLINT, Mich. -- During a news conference at city hall today, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr. Nicole Lurie and Mayor Karen Weaver announced that Rear Admiral (RADM) Michelle E. Dunwoody, an assistant U.S. surgeon general, will serve as a temporary senior advisor to Mayor Weaver.
"Admiral Dunwoody brings a wealth of expertise to expand the technical capability of the Mayor’s office and ensure that Flint develops the local expertise needed to help the community recover in the days, months and years to come," said Dr. Lurie.
“My priority has always been, and will always be, that Flint’s families have the resources they deserve, as well a voice which allows them a say in how their community’s future is built,” said Mayor Weaver. “That’s why this partnership is so welcome – it’s an opportunity to continue building relationships while ensuring that some of our country’s best experts are working with us to find solutions.”
In her role as temporary senior advisor, RADM Dunwoody will supervise a Corps-based community engagement team and work with Mayor Weaver to establish immediate-, mid-, and long-term goals for the City of Flint Public Health and Medical Recovery Plan. In addition to providing subject matter expertise in both community public health and medical infrastructure, RADM Dunwoody will work with city officials to outline a job description for an eventual full-time Flint-employed public health advisor.
“Ensuring that the men, women, and children of Flint have the same opportunity as all Americans to live healthy lives is a team effort, and I have seen first-hand just how dedicated city leaders, city and county health officials, and our Commissioned Corps officers have been to that cause,” said Dr. Karen DeSalvo, acting assistant secretary for Health, who oversees the Commissioned Corps. “This appointment is an important step forward for that team, and I am eager to continue our collaboration with Mayor Weaver and the residents of Flint.”
The appointment follows last month’s news that a strike force of Commissioned Corps officers worked closely with the Genesee County Health Department to clear a backlog of blood lead level screening results, as well as visits to Flint by Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell, Dr. DeSalvo, Dr. Lurie (who is leading federal response efforts in Flint), U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, and other officials from across the administration.
“The people of Flint need clean water. They need medical care. And, above all, they need trusted voices to communicate the best available public health information in the midst of a crisis,” said Surgeon General Murthy, commander of the Commissioned Corps. “Those trusted voices include health care providers, community leaders and our Commissioned Corps officers. Our officers include doctors, nurses, scientists and engineers who have safeguarded the health of our nation for 127 years.”
The administration is working across government to support state and local efforts to ensure that families in Flint have access to safe drinking water and the assistance they need to mitigate any harmful impacts of lead contamination in the water supply. Additional federal support underway in Flint includes efforts to analyze the water supply and control the corrosion of pipes (EPA); distribute bottled water, filters and replacement cartridges (FEMA); connect residents with blood-lead level screenings and follow-up care (HHS); help families on food stamps purchase infant formula that doesn’t need to be mixed with water (USDA); inspect and abate lead in homes (HUD); and provide impacted small business owners with low-interest economic injury disaster loans (SBA).
To-date, more than 30 Commissioned Corps officers have played a critical role in responding to the crisis in Flint. Commissioned Corps officers have assisted with behavioral health training and provided support to volunteers participating in community engagement efforts. Additionally, they have helped staff the Genesee County Health Department’s information line and worked with the county’s staff to develop additional materials needed to answer callers’ questions.
The 6,700 officers of the Commissioned Corps comprise the only uniformed service solely committed to protecting, promoting and advancing the health and safety of the nation. Members often serve on the front lines in public health emergency and crisis situations, including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the tragic shootings in Roseburg, Oregon and most recently in West Africa treating Ebola patients.