On the Ground in Flint
Last week, I traveled to Flint to hear from members of the community about the challenges that they are facing and to share information about the federal government’s work to respond. And I had the chance to meet Cynthia, a working mom with a 6-year-old son. Cynthia had heard about Flint’s water on the news, but she didn’t think going to the doctor was something she needed to do. And working two jobs made it hard to find the time.
But the more she heard about it, the more she worried about her son’s health. She wasn’t sure who to trust and what she really needed to do. So when he couldn’t shake a cold, she went ahead and had him tested for lead exposure. His results showed that he had been exposed to lead.
The county health department almost immediately contacted Cynthia and arranged for a home inspector to stop by her house. Like anyone, she had worries. From the mundane: was her home tidy enough? To the more serious: would she be more or less confused by what she heard? But after meeting with the home inspector for four hours, Cynthia had more than enough information and the inspector’s number to call with any questions. She told me that the visit was so helpful that she finally slept well, for the first time in days.
We’re in Flint for the many people like Cynthia who are worried about their health, and the health of their families. Last month, President Obama declared a state of emergency for this community and directed the Department of Health & Human Services to coordinate the federal response. We are doing everything we can to support the state and local community.
At HHS, our mission is to ensure that every American has the tools to live a healthy and productive life. To do that for the people of Flint, we are working at every level – from here on the ground in Flint to state, local and federal leadership. We will support state and local officials in ensuring that Flint has access to safe water, and that we clearly understand the impact of this lead exposure on residents’ health, and mitigate the damage.
Dr. Nicole Lurie, our Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, is leading the federal government’s response. Dr. Karen DeSalvo, our Acting Assistant Secretary for Health, is leading our work with public health officials. Working closely together, last week we announced two new steps we’ll take to help the community recover:
- Our Health Resources and Services Administration is awarding a total of half a million dollars to the two federally qualified health centers in Flint so they can hire more community health workers and offer physical and mental health services to the people of Flint.
- We are currently working with the state of Michigan on its request for waivers to its Medicaid program. We anticipate being able to approve a number of requests for the residents of Flint, including a major coverage expansion for children and pregnant women in Flint. This coverage would include Medicaid services like lead blood-level testing, nutritional support, behavioral health services, comprehensive and targeted case management and many more.
This will build on the work we’re already doing with state and local partners in Flint. We’re making sure residents know that they can get lead screening for them or their children at many places in the community, including Head Start centers and community health centers. We want residents to know that behavioral health services are available. And we are spreading the word that we are working with local and state officials to measure the lead exposure and closely inspect homes at risk of lead contamination.
Talking to the people of Flint, I have been so inspired by their resilience and their strength. We are committed to their recovery.
If you live in Flint, here are some health tips to keep in mind:
- Use water filters.
- Clean the aerator in your home’s faucet weekly.
- Change the water filter every two weeks.
- Have your children tested for lead exposure.
- Add fresh fruits and vegetables to your children’s diets.
Every community needs safe drinking water. Every community deserves it. That’s why we are going to do everything in our power to support state and local efforts, and help the people, like Cynthia, who depend on us.
HHS is doing everything they can to support state & local community efforts in #Flint→ http://1.usa.gov/21lasRo #FlintForward
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