Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services blog. See the original post here.
Flint, Michigan is in the midst of a serious public health crisis, with high levels of lead in its water supply. President Obama signed an emergency declaration on Saturday, ordering federal assistance to support state and local response efforts.
With the emergency declaration in place, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has now been designated the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating federal government response and recovery efforts.
This means that HHS will, in collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), identify and mobilize the capabilities of the rest of the federal partners – including the Small Business Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Education and Agriculture (USDA) -- that are already working to help residents in Flint.
The goal of the federal response will be to help state and local leaders identify the size and scope of the problem, and work with them to make and execute a plan for mitigation of the short- and long-term health effects of lead exposure.
HHS will have a team on the ground in Flint this week. The team will be led by Dr. Nicole Lurie, HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). Dr. Lurie will begin engaging with state and local officials today and will travel to Flint tomorrow.
In order to fully leverage the Department’s strengths, the HHS team will include HHS Acting Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Karen DeSalvo, whose office manages the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health and Safety Risks to Children, and who will be the primary interface with state and local public health officials. Two U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers will also help with the day-to-day responsibilities in Flint.
While HHS will now take on a more prominent role in helping state and local officials respond to this public health crisis, the agency has already been actively engaged in response and recovery efforts, including:
FEMA, EPA, HUD, and USDA are also actively engaged in existing response and recovery efforts.
HHS will provide more details about future federal response and recovery efforts after the HHS team gets on the ground and has a chance to further engage with state and local officials. In the meantime, the Department will continue to work with state and local officials to determine how the federal government can best provide further assistance.
Mary K. Wakefield, Ph.D., RN is the HHS Acting Deputy Secretary