Spotlight Blog Series: HUD Grant Advances Lead Prevention in Cook County, Illinois

By Elizabeth Brasington, NACCHO Marketing/ Communications Intern

HUDblog2-imageLast week, Ingham County Health Department was featured as one of the 15 Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration (LHRD) awardees for our three-part blog series highlighting this impactful grant. Created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), this funding aims to support communities to identify and reduce lead-based housing. Lead-prevention efforts in Ingham County, led by the City of Lansing in partnership with the health department are both vital and now progressing, as a direct result of this initiative. Read the full account in our first blog post, here.

Today’s story takes us two-hundred miles south west of Lansing to Cook County, another LHRD grant recipient making great strides in lowering the risk of lead exposure across nine at-risk communities.

Moving Towards Primary Prevention

A little over two-hundred miles south west of Lansing, MI, the Cook County Department of Planning and Development (CCDPD), in partnership with the Cook County Department of Public Health, received a $2,000,000 LHRD grant to address lead exposure in suburban Cook County, IL. Cook County will use these funds to rehab 120 housing units with low- and very low-income family residents. CCDPD had a program to renovate homes until 2010, when it was shut down due to fraud. The need for single family renovations has increased in particular, due to flooding in 2013-14. The county now has a new funding source to assist with low income home flood remediation and prevention.

“We understood that we needed to address the lead-based paint in these homes, as we addressed issues around flooding,” said Jane Hornstein, CCDP Deputy Director.

Cook County pursued the HUD grant to help target areas affected by both flooding damage and lead paint. Nine communities were identified with the highest need, including Berwyn, Blue Island, Calumet City, Calumet Park, Cicero, Dalton, Maywood, Riverdale, and Robins.

“The communities selected for this project were identified as risk areas for lead exposure in children ages six and younger,” said Deanna Durica, MPH, Director of Lead Poisoning Prevention and Healthy Homes.

Like Lansing, minority communities are especially impacted by high prevalence of lead poisoning in Cook County. Neighborhood Housing Service of Chicago (NHS) and the North West Housing Partnership (NWHP) will partner with CCDPD to collect and vet applications from homeowners, as well as check if homeowners made previous insurance claims.

“Our partnering agencies have construction managers on their staff, who will visit homes with a lead-risk assessor to create a scope of work,” Hornstein said. “They will also support homeowners with making the best decision by presenting them with multiple contractor bid options and guidance.”

Once selected, the contractor will then perform the remediation work, with oversight by NHS and NWHP. Once complete NHS and NWHP will process the billing through the County.

Similar to Ingham County, Cook County is thrilled for this much needed opportunity to address the health and future of their community by taking a more preemptive approach and reducing the risk for future generations.

“The national childhood lead prevention model has always been to wait until the child is exposed and then take action,” Durica said. “This movement towards prevention rather than reaction is so exciting for population health.”

Tune in next week for the third and final part of this blog series highlighting  Albany, New York. The city is also an LHRD grantee that is receiving critical support from their local health departments to conduct outreach, health education, and remediation work preventing lead exposure. Learn more about the HUD LHRD grant program here.

About Anastasia Sonneman

Anastasia Sonneman serves as a Communications Specialist at NACCHO. Her work includes promoting local health departments' best practices, as well as partner tools and resources, in environmental health, health and disability, and preparedness through NACCHO's communications channels, storytelling, and outreach to various audiences.

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