Snyder to seek aid for Flint children exposed to lead – Detroit Free Press
Gov. Rick Snyder said Tuesday heÂ will seek permission from the Obama administration to allow all young people in Flint the chance to receive publicly fundedÂ health care services forÂ leadÂ exposure amid the city’s contaminated drinking water crisis.
âWeâre focused on protecting the health and welfare of Flint residents, especially children and young adults who might have been exposed to lead,â Snyder said in a news release. âWe want to make sure comprehensive medical care services are available, and we hope the federal government will partner in our efforts.â
The White House and federal Department of Health and Human Services did not have an immediate response Tuesday to Snyder’s initiative targeting Flint residents up to ageÂ 21 through the expansion of Medicaid.
Specifically, the initiative, which is expected to be sent to the Obama administrationÂ in the next week, seeks expandingÂ Medicaid eligibility to those affected regardless of income level.Â The request would also include the expansion of Medicaid coverage for people already enrolled in other forms of insurance.
The idea, state officials said, is toÂ spread comprehensive benefits to children who may have come into contact with lead in the water regardless of their ability to pay.Â Generally, lead affects children more than it does adults. Children tend to show signs of severe lead toxicity at lower levels than adults, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.
In addition, the state would ask for additional resources to bolster community-based services to address behavioral issues arising from lead exposure. Finally, additional resources would be poured intoÂ removing lead from Flint homes through an expanded Medicaid match program.
Before the governor’s announcement, in an interview withÂ Free Press reporters, one of the leading public health advocates in Flint said that the state and federal government had set aside little up until now to pay forÂ new efforts to treat young people who have been exposed to lead.
“Everything has gone for infrastructure and water,” Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, head of theÂ pediatric residents program at the city-owned Hurley Medical CenterÂ andÂ pediatrics and human development professor at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, said in a conference call Tuesday afternoon. “Those are Band-Aids. Those are today problems.”
She added that the total cost of treating the community exposed to lead could be a crisis needing billions of dollars to address and takeÂ years to complete.
Earlier this month, a group of concerned community members in Flint, including Hanna-Attisha, created a charitable fund seeking donations to support Flintâs children exposed to lead. The fund is designed to supplement the ongoing pursuit of additional state and federal funding, backers had said.
Earlier this month,Â Hanna-Attisha estimated betweenÂ 8,000 andÂ 9,000 children under the age of 6 years living in Flint may have been exposed. State officials said that 25,000 children in Genesee CountyÂ currently receive Medicaid. It was unclear Tuesday how many young people may receive new or expanded services as a result of the governor’s request.
State officials also said they were unsure of the total cost, some of which would be borne by the state and some of which would be assumed by the federal government.
Flint stopped buying water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department in April 2014 and began using the Flint River after FlintÂ decided toÂ join theÂ Karegnondi Water AuthorityÂ in a move considered more cost-effective for the financially ailing city. It needed an interim water source because construction on the water authority project will not beÂ complete until later this year.
After failing to answer alarm bells sounded by outraged citizens who complained of discolored and foul-smelling tap water andÂ scoffing at reports of a spike in blood-lead levels in Flint children, MichiganÂ acknowledged a problem in early October and helped Flint reconnect to the Detroit system. But officials say a danger persists because of damage to the water-distribution system by the corrosive Flint River water and said that residents still shouldnât drink the tap water without using a lead filter.
Snyder declared a state of emergency Jan. 5 and mobilized theÂ Michigan National GuardÂ to help with water and filter distribution on Jan. 12. On Jan. 16,Â President Barack ObamaÂ declared a federal state of emergency in Flint but an emergency declaration seldom brings more than about $5 million in short-term aid. Obama alsoÂ announced $80 million in financial aid for water infrastructure projects in Michigan â but it’s not clear how much of that will go to help Flint.
Several other federal agencies are on the ground in Flint andÂ Hanna-Attisha said the Obama administration’s point-person in the city, Dr. Nicole Lurie of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, seems to understandÂ the need for long-term intervention for affected children and others. But the question of federal financialÂ resources to support that remains.
The state Department ofÂ Environmental QualityÂ admitted that it failed to require corrosion-control chemicals in the water after the switch in sources. Many also blame local officials and federal environmental experts for their roles in the poorly treated water. The city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager at the time.
The Legislature has already approved $9.35 million for Flint for the current 2016 fiscal year and a further 2016 appropriation of $28 million has passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate this week.
The $28-million supplemental appropriation bill for 2015-16 is expected to be revised Wednesday in the Senate Appropriations Committee before moving on to the full Senate. Senators have said that because of the massive surge of donations of bottled water to Flint, some of the money could be targeted away from water toward other needs.
Currently, the bill allocates $500,000 to study Flint’s water infrastructure and $2 million for water system needs, which could include new infrastructure.
Officials say Flint has about 500 miles of old iron pipe and thousands of lead service lines, none of which have been replaced since the state acknowledged a public health crisis around Oct. 1.
Since January 9, state-led water resource teams have helped deliverÂ 176,118 cases of bottled water,Â 93,048 filters,Â 198,552 filter cartridges andÂ 29,320 water testing kits, according to state officials on Tuesday.
There are more than a half-dozen federal agencies active in responding to the Flint crisis, including FEMA and the DHHS, with a large part of that effort dedicated to supplying residents with fresh water and providing technical assistance and resources to ensure that residents, especially children, have their blood-lead levels tested. Agencies are also looking at what resources can be made available to continue to monitor exposed children.
Dedicated funding for long-term infrastructure repairs, however, has not been made available, since emergency declarations like the one signed for Flint are generally limited to $5 million and even individual assistance is rare under that process.
The federal HHSÂ says the Centers for Disease Control is providing technical assistance to assess lead exposure, especially in homes with children, and that HHS is working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to locate vulnerable residents who may need help getting bottled water and filters.
HHS also said that Medicaid regularly requires Medicaid-eligible children up to age 6 be tested for lead poisoning and that treatment is covered under Medicaid as are home investigations. HHS says the state can expedite enrollment into Medicaid for eligible children in need of immediate medical attention.
Less than a week after issuing an emergency order that it would take over water sampling in Flint, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an update on Tuesday saying it expects to begin several rounds of sampling to confirm that filters distributed to residents are effective in removing lead and to better understand the types of service lines prevalent in the city. The EPA also said it would take samples to âensure corrosion control is being restored in the drinking water system.â
Last week, the agency complained that the city of Flint and state DEQÂ werenât enacting recommendations for improving city water quickly enough.
Contact Matthew Dolan: 313-223-4743 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @matthewsdolan