By Elizabeth Brasington, NACCHO Marketing/ Communications Intern
The third and final story for our three-part blog series highlighting the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)‘s Lead Hazard Reduction (LHRD) awardees takes us to Albany County, New York. Similar to both the health departments serving Lansing (MI) and Cook County (IL), the Albany County Health Department is taking a vital role in supporting its city to prevent and reduce lead exposure across the community. If you haven’t done so already, click to read the first (Lansing) and second (Cook County) blog posts in this series.
Incentivizing Lead Inspections
As recipients of a $3,000,000 LHRD grant, the city of Albany has called on its local health department and an external contractor, Flatley-Read, LLC, to implement much needed lead remediation for its most vulnerable residents. Together, they plan to address lead hazards in 150 housing units with low and very low-income families with children. The city will use the funding directly to hire contractors who will perform lead remediation work. Flatley-Read, LCC is providing environmental analysis and compliance management. Finally, the health department’s role centers on identifying which residences contain high levels of lead and are in need of remediation, by assessing, collecting, and submitting referrals to city officials.
Albany was initially identified as an area with high incidences of lead exposure through the health department’s collaboration with the state Childhood Lead Primary Prevention Program (CLPPP). This program works to assess blood lead levels in children across the state. As a result of CLPPP analysis, eight New York counties were deemed to have unsafe lead levels including Albany. In response, the health department amplified its local lead prevention efforts. Specifically, staff focused on increasing community member participation in the state’s “Home Cleaning Kit” program, which directly supports the health department to identify and refer residences in need of lead remediation to city officials.
“[Each kit] is a tote bag full of cleaning products to keep lead dust down, explains Marcia Lenehan, Director of Environment Health, Albany County Department of Health. “They also have informational handouts about lead poisoning and nutrition education on foods and eating habits that can help mitigate the impact of lead exposure.”
Every individual or family who requests a kit, automatically receives a home inspection and in-person education on using the cleaning products to decrease lead levels in their residence. Inspections and health education sessions are conducted by the health department’s Lead Primary Prevention Program (LPPP), who are then able to make referrals to the city, should a residence qualify for lead remediation work. This process is crucial in moving the entire project forward, because city officials are not trained to perform such inspections.
“The quality of work completed by the city and health department is good and it’s more readily acceptable by homeowners and landlords,” said Steven VanWormer, Supervisor of the CLPPP and LPP programs at the Albany County Health Department.
The health department uses various outreach efforts to promote the “Home Cleaning Kits,” including distributing informational flyers at community-based organizations such as churches and beauty salons. Promotional materials have also been featured on billboards and public transportation facilities, as pictured above on the left, throughout Albany. Plans to outfit a dedicated outreach car advertising the kits are also underway.
Learn more about the HUD LHRD grant program, here.