A short time ago, there were inquiries from greens in various parts of the country asking GPMI what they could do to help Flint’s water crisis. We did not have any immediate great advice to give them. It seemed obvious that numerous charitable efforts to send drinkable water made sense. At the same time, it’s clear that piling up mounds of discarded water bottles makes this at best a very temporary measure and not at all sustainable.
Last Saturday, February 6, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha came to Royal Oak to address an interested crowd of 200 or so people about her take on the situation. She is the head of the Pediatrics Department at Flint’s Hurley Hospital.
Her testing, tracking and publicizing the doubling of the number of children in Flint who have dangerous levels of lead in their blood since Flint’s Emergency Manager decided to switch to the Flint River for a water source was the essential element that forced general recognition of a real and consequential public health issue. If any one individual is equipped to understand and comment on the Flint water crisis, she is.
At the meeting in Royal Oak, she addressed directly the question of what to do if you want to help the people of Flint, and in particular the children of Flint, who are most in need of long term help. She said, “If you want to help us, don’t do any more water drives because we can’t even store or process it.” Instead, in her opinion, what the community needs now is financial support from state and local governments to fund care for the children, including an aggressive Head Start program for pre-kindergarden children.
In addition to early childhood learning programs, the community also needs expansion of the Women, Infants and Children supplemental nutrition program; greater access to mental health programs; and education on breast feeding because many children in Flint are on formula which is, of course, mixed with water.
Specifically, she encouraged those who want to donate to direct their money to flintkids.org, which supports the Flint Child Health and Development Fund. This would in her opinion be better than donating through GoFundMe.
She also said that volunteers are needed to go door to door to explain what is happening to residents who are not reached by most media. In particular, she pointed out that the second most-used language in Flint is sign language, and that the city has a substantial Spanish-speaking population.
All of this sounds to me like much better advice for greens both in and outside Michigan who want to do something to help with the Flint water crisis. It incorporates a longer-term way of dealing with the issues and it is a model for any future similar situation.
Unfortunately, there will be many future similar situations, as long as we keep allowing people who think government should be run like a business to get into positions of political power. Throwing them out of office is an even longer-term and more difficult way of addressing the problems they create.
For additional information about the talk including a video of the event, see http://oaklandcounty115.com/2016/02/06/dr-mona-hanna-attisha-talks-about-flint-water-crisis-video/