Public health department anticipates sharp decrease in lead program funding
By STEPH TAHTINEN
Mt. Pleasant News
Due to budget cuts, Henry County’s lead program may see up to a 67 percent reduction in funding for the upcoming fiscal year.
Community Health Director Travis Johnson told the Henry County Board of Health on Thursday that in the best-case scenario, grant funding for the lead program will drop from its current $7,500 to $6,800. However, it is also possible that the county could only receive $2,500 in funding.
“It could be anywhere between there. Until we submit that application, we don’t know,” said Johnson. “However, depending on where that limit is certainly impacts the feasibility of the program moving forward.”
Funding for the county’s lead program is comes from the state. However, the state runs the program from money received from the federal government for administrative expenses. As there is no money expected from the federal government this year, the state will be cutting its funding to the counties.
“I think it’s a problem because the state is requiring that before kids start school, they have to be lead tested,” said Vice Chair Rose Lauer. She noted that while testing can be done through primary care physicians, there are still those who need to rely on other sources for testing.
The board of health felt the lead program is important enough to continue and voted to have Johnson proceed with the application.
“I think we need to pursue whatever we can get and continue the program,” said Carol McCulley, board member.
According to Cindy Litchfield, led program coordinator, the Henry County Public Health Department has tested 87 children for lead since July 1, 2012. Adding in the number of scans done by other healthcare providers, there have been 325 Henry County children scanned for lead in that time period.
Of these, there have been two children with elevated lead levels. An elevated lead level means the child’s blood contained at least 10 micrograms of lead in a deciliter.
In one of these elevated cases the child tested above 20, which makes it an active case, which requires a home inspection to be completed.
Environmental Specialist Jodi Sutter does the lead inspections for Henry County, and she noted that this is one area where a decrease in funding will cause a problem, because every three years she has to be re-certified by taking two days of eight hours of classes each day.
“The fees for the class are fairly hefty, it’s like $500 registration for these classes, and then mileage and hotel and time that you’re there,” said Sutter.
Once a home is identified as being a lead hazard, it is put on a list where the home remains until the lead has been safely eliminated. There are 31 homes on Henry County’s list.
“They didn’t all come this year, that’s over the course of the history of the lead program here in Henry County,” said Litchfield.
“Of those 31 homes, when I counted through them, 12 of them had been in the last 10 years, so many of these homes have been on there since the ‘90s,” said Johnson. “It’s very difficult, if your home does have lead paint in it, to fully remediate that home and get rid of it. It’s nearly impossible.”
“The problem is, every door, every window, every baseboard, every piece of wood in your house has lead on it,” said Sutter. “That’s very, very expensive.”
Each of these property owners receives a letter from the department once a year. Previously, they received two letters each year.
It was noted that there are counties that do not administer their own lead programs and rely on the state to do it. Washington, Jefferson and Van Buren counties were cited as examples.
In other business, Johnson informed the board that recent Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) clinics vaccinated 134 of the 271 sixth graders in Henry County.
“We got about half of them, which is pretty good,” said Johnson.
The public health department went to all of the middle schools in Henry County to vaccinate sixth graders against as part of a new state requirement that all students enrolling in grades seven and up receive a Tdap booster, if born on or after Sept. 15, 2000
Those who were not vaccinated at school can be vaccinated by their physician or at the public health department.
Staff time for the vaccination clinics was funded through a grant and the vaccine was provided by the state.