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Here's an update on what's changed for Flint kids since the state's emergency declaration

May 5, 2016

The water crisis in Flint is ongoing. And it's been a while since we've talked about it here at State of Opportunity, so let's catch up.

In January, President Barack Obama issued an emergency declaration for Genesee County in response to conditions in the city.

Residents have been given water, water filters, and testing kits. Federal aid has been provided to supplement state and local efforts.

On Tuesday, the White House released a fact sheet detailing federal support that has been provided to Flint since the president's declaration.

So what changes have been made that benefit city's most vulnerable residents – its kidsHere are five from the White House fact sheet:

1. Expanded Medicaid coverage for kids and young people up to age 21, as well as pregnant women, expected to begin enrollment in May.

  • Approximately 15,000 additional children, young people, and pregnant women will now be eligible for Medicaid coverage, and 30,000 current Medicaid beneficiaries in the area are eligible for expanded services.
  • This comprehensive health and developmental coverage includes blood lead level monitoring, behavioral health services, and targeted case management. Targeted case management services will include assistance to help impacted residents gain access to needed medical, social, educational, and other services.

2. $250,000 in emergency supplemental funding to both the Hamilton Community Health Network and Genesee Health System to hire new staff and provide additional services.

In the first 30 days after receiving the funds, the health centers reportedly:

  • Provided outreach services to more than 2,600 patients to help prevent continued lead exposure.
  • Tested more than 1,600 patients for lead.
  • Referred 28 patients with elevated lead levels for follow-up appointments, including 27 patients younger than six years old.
  • Provided behavioral health services for almost 450 patients.

3. Enrolled children with elevated blood lead levels into Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services Lead Poisoning Prevention Program for case management.

Federal nurses have made 377 home visits and phone calls to Genesee County families in the program and provide lead prevention education.

4. $3.6 million one-time emergency funding to expand the Head Start program.

The grant helped with expansion of early childhood education, behavioral health services, health services, and nutrition services. Grantees have:

  • Opened three additional classrooms beginning March 2016 through June 2017 for children in the most affected areas. These classes were filled by March 28.
  • Lengthened the current school year by three weeks and lengthened the school day from seven hours to seven-and-a-half hours.
  • Provided Head Start comprehensive services to preschoolers already enrolled in the school’s special education program.
  • Enrolled two dozen additional children in the home-based model.

5. Increased access to foods rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin C, which help mitigate lead absorption in children.

The USDA increased access to these foods by:

  • Providing summertime nutrition assistance through a Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer pilot program for the more than 15,000 Flint children who live in or attend schools in the area affected by lead-contaminated water. These students are eligible to receive a $30 benefit package each summer month for nutritious foods that may help mitigate lead absorption.
  • Encouraging all eligible Flint Community Schools and other Flint-area schools to participate in the Community Eligibility Provision, a program that ensures universal access to healthy school meals.
  • Providing an additional $62,700 to help schools purchase fresh fruit and vegetable snacks. Four additional schools serving more than 1,200 students are now participating in this program.

We’ve discussed the negative health impacts due to the water crisis. There are concerns that the behavioral and health consequences will  make it even harder for already disadvantaged children to get ahead.

And while these resources are a good thing, for many people living in Flint – especially kids who have already been exposed to harmful levels of lead in the water – the damage has already been done.

I'm sure this topic is one we'll be keeping an eye on well into the future.

You can read the full fact sheet here.