EAST CHICAGO, Ind. — Indiana will spend up to $3 million in each of the next five years to provide lead testing, prevention and removal in East Chicago, South Bend and other cities with higher risks for lead exposure among children from low-income families.
The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced last week that it expects the funding from the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program will cover the costs of testing and abatement for hundreds of homes per year, as well as educating families and equipping physicians with information about lead exposure.
The initiative will serve families eligible to be covered by Medicaid or CHIP. State data show that in 2012, about 96 percent of Indiana children who had elevated blood lead levels were Medicaid recipients. However, fewer than 30 percent of Medicaid-eligible children received required lead testing that year, despite a federal requirement that all such children be tested.
Some physicians do not routinely test children younger than age 7 for exposure, a 2015 report by the State Health Department showed.
“We are pleased that our federal partners have approved this creative way to repurpose CHIP administrative funds to address crucial children’s public health concerns,” FSSA Secretary Dr. Jennifer Walthall said in a news release. “Children need healthy communities and healthy homes to have the best chance at a successful future.”
The federal government banned lead-based paint in 1978 but it remains a common source of lead poisoning in young children.
“Lead exposure can affect a child’s overall development,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said. “We hope that through this funding we can significantly increase our testing and abatement activities and provide hundreds of additional children a better path toward normal development.”
Debbie Chizewer, an attorney at the Northwestern University Pritzker Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic, said the state initiative is “encouraging.”
“The community has expressed its concern about resources for lead dust and paint abatement and the state’s response to those concerns is a positive sign. … It shows the state recognizes there’s a need to dedicate more resources to lead dust and paint abatement,” Chizewer told The (Northwest Indiana) Times.
The Indiana Housing and Community Authority also plans to increase its testing and abatement efforts with a $3.4 million federal grant.