The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties has launched a $1 million initiative aimed at eliminating childhood lead poisoning in Herkimer and Oneida counties by 2030. The Foundation will lead and coordinate “Lead-Free MV” with multiple community partners, including the Oneida County Health Department, Herkimer County Public Health and Herkimer County HealthNet.
The Foundation is launching Lead-Free MV as the first of its planned ‘Impact Investments,’ which use The Foundation’s resources to strategically address longstanding community challenges by leveraging resources with like-minded partners for maximum effect. Impact Investment and lead poisoning eradication have been the focus on much research and effort by The Foundation’s Board over recent years, culminating the launch of Lead-Free MV.
A Silent Danger
In recent years, Oneida County has had one of the highest levels of childhood lead poisoning in the state. Experts say children can be exposed to lead through a variety of sources, including contaminated soil or water; imported toys, pottery or cosmetics; and paint used before 1978. At low levels, symptoms of poisoning are often hard to detect, but may include loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue and abdominal discomfort.
Long-term lead exposure can result in developmental delays, learning difficulties and behavioral issues, with lifelong financial consequences. And despite a state law requiring early childhood testing for lead exposure, a third of pre-school children in Herkimer and Oneida Counties have not had the required blood test.
Coalition for Change
Beginning with The Foundation’s $1 million investment over the next three years, the Lead-Free MV coalition will focus on the elimination of lead hazards in pre-1978 housing, as well as expanding testing and community awareness of the problem. Efforts will range from direct outreach and education to strengthening legislation related to property maintenance.
In addition to providing the start-up funding, The Foundation will serve as a “backbone organization” for Lead-Free MV and coordinate efforts among partner organizations. A coalition oversees the initiative’s mission and progress, and help advance the cause within the community. Coalition members represent public health, local government, legal, insurance, healthcare, education, child care, construction and support services constituencies.
Interested in working with the coalition? Contact John Monaghan at 315-731-3722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Currently, several programs addressing the issue exist on the local, state and federal levels, but an opportunity exists to coordinate efforts between Herkimer and Oneida counties to achieve greater outcomes and prevent duplicative efforts. Other regions and municipalities who have successfully addressed the issue point to a strong coalition as the driving force for change.
In 2000, the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning was founded in Rochester, New York, to address a blood lead level crisis in Monroe County, especially within the City of Rochester. As many as one in four children were found to have elevated blood lead levels in the most at-risk areas of the city in 2002. Through policy changes, outreach and investment, Monroe County was able to achieve an 89 percent decrease in the number of children with elevated blood lead levels between 1999 and 2013.