State Agencies To Set Up Program Against Lead Poisoning & Asthma

It will work to prevent these illnesses.

Baltimore, Md. (KM)  A program to deal with lead poisoning and asthma is being developed in Maryland. It will be operated by the Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, Environment and Housing and Community Development.

“This is a program  that’s been in the works in terms of our thinking about how to leverage federal resources to allow local governments and others to access funds that they could use to more effectively abate lead and lead exposures,” says Dr. Clifford Mitchell, Director of DHMH’s Environmental Health Bureau.

He says the emphasis on lead poisoning and asthma will be to prevent children and adults from contracting this illness. That usually means dealing with lead paint inside of old homes, according to Dr. Mitchell. But he notes this is not just a problem for Baltimore city. “We’ve got housing that contains lead paint everywhere in the state, and certainly in our older cities like downtown Frederick, on the Eastern Shore, into Hagerstown in southern Maryland,” he says.

Regarding asthma:  “Asthma can be triggered by many, many different conditions,” says Dr. Mitchell. “Some of it is related to, it’s true, older homes if they’ve got mold or they have a lot of dust. But even newer homes, in some cases, may contain triggers that can trigger a child’s asthma.”

The program will have two parts, according to DHMH. The first is a partnership between the Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Environment and Housing and Community Development to expand lead identification and abatement programs delivered by Housing and Community Development. The second would expand local health departments’ programs that identify and eliminate sources of lead exposures and asthma triggers in home.

“We’re are going to be working in very close partnership and some of the funds available in one part of this program would actually build capacity within the local health department using community health and environmental case managers,” says Dr. Mitchell.

The state has applied to the US Center  for Medicare and Medicaid Services to develop this initiative to help reduce lead poisoning and asthma. If it’s approved, the state could receive up to $3.7-million in CHIP (Maryland Medicaid Children’s Health Insurance Program)  to match the $500,000 put up by the state in fiscal year 2017. An additional $2.6-million could potentially be available to the state to fund local health department initiatives to serve families affected by lead poisoning and asthma, DHMH says in a news release.

“We’re optimistic that not only is there a need here, but there’s clearly a need that we believe falls within the scope of  what the Children’s Health Insurance Program was set up to do,” says Dr. Mitchell.

By Kevin McManus