Experts Federal Funds for Lead Pipe Replacement Needed in MO / Public News Service

Missouri has roughly 330,000 lead service lines, the pipes connecting water mains to buildings including people’s homes, and federal funding could help speed up the process of removing and replacing them.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year includes $15 billion for lead-pipe replacement, building on funds from the American Rescue Plan.

Erik D. Olson, senior strategic director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, noted Missouri has the sixth-highest number of lead service lines in the nation, and the fourth-highest per capita.

“It’s very important, really crucial, to pull those lead pipes out of the ground, so people aren’t basically drinking through a lead straw,” Olson contended.

Olson added more than 80% of Missouri children have detectable lead levels in their blood, the second-highest percentage in the country. He noted lead can have serious health effects on kids, from learning disabilities and hearing loss to damaging blood cells. And in adults, lead exposure can lead to heart disease, reproductive health problems and more.

Dan Giammar, professor of environmental engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, said lead pipes are more common in older cities, especially in homes and neighborhoods built before 1930. He stressed many other water contaminants can be taken care of at treatment plants, but lead is unique, because it is the pipes themselves.

“Lead is really a challenging contaminant for water systems, because they can do all kinds of great things in a treatment plant, but they’re not going to remove lead at the treatment plant, because the source of the lead is between the treatment plants and the customers,” Giammar outlined.

Utility companies often only replace the parts of the service lines on public property, or what’s known as a partial replacement. Experts from the NRDC say financing service-line replacement is a barrier for many communities trying to get lead out of their drinking water, especially low-income communities.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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gov. Gavin Newsom got a six-foot-tall Valentine Monday, thanking him for putting Medi-Cal access for undocumented people into his latest budget proposal.

Advocates brought a giant heart-shaped card to the Capitol, covered in letters from dozens of Californians.

Beatriz Hernandez, Central Valley organizing fellow with the California Immigrant Policy Center, said right now, hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants can only get emergency Medi-Cal coverage.

“They can’t just go to any regular visit to the doctor, like you and I,” Hernandez explained. “They can only access care if their lives are at risk in an emergency.”

gov. Newsom’s proposal would open full-scale Medi-Cal coverage to income-eligible undocumented adults between ages 26 and 49. In recent years, the state has expanded eligibility to undocumented children, seniors and young adults. Opponents of the program cite concerns about cost.

The state Legislative Analyst’s Office said the proposal would cover another 700,000 people and cost the state $2.2 billion a year, if implemented starting in 2024.

Hernandez noted it would make California the first state in the nation to offer health care to all.

“It’s putting California in the front and center, and to show the rest of the nation that this is something that can be done,” Hernandez asserted. “This is what an equitable state can look like when people in power do the right thing.”

Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, and Asm. Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, both supporters of the “Health4All” campaign, also signed the card. The California Legislature has until June to approve a budget.

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February marks one year of community health centers giving COVID vaccines, playing a crucial role in protecting populations disproportionately affected by the virus.

They’ve administered nearly 15,000 vaccine doses so far at the East Arkansas Family Health Center, which serves Crittenden, Phillips, Poinsett and Mississippi counties.

dr Susan Ward-Jones, CEO of the Center, said part of their success is taking their clinical services to churches, schools and factories. They contended health centers are trusted messengers in the fight against vaccine misinformation.

“I think, even to this day, it’s a one-on-one conversation with patients,” Ward-Jones explained. “And you know, phrase it as such that it’s an individual choice but, ‘let me educate you on the vaccine and why it’s so important,’ in particular for those that have comorbidities and chronic disease.”

Ward-Jones pointed out the East Arkansas Family Center is hiring community health workers to increase vaccination rates in underserved communities. Health centers nationwide have provided 19.2 million COVID-19 shots in the last year, with more than two-thirds of the recipients identifying as people of color.

dr Anne Gaglioti, associate professor of family medicine at the Morehouse School of Medicine and senior strategic adviser at the National Center for Primary Care, said like many front-line workers, community health center staff have been through what she called a “traumatic experience” during the pandemic, struggling with burnout and loss.

“I know that they are tired, and they’ve experienced a huge amount of loss,” Gaglioti observed. “And despite that, they’re still coming to work every day and caring for folks, caring for their neighbors.”

Community health centers accept patients, no matter their income or whether they have health insurance. And there are fewer COVID-19 deaths and infections in places where a health center is located, according to research from the National Association of Community Health Centers and Morehouse’s National COVID-19 Resiliency Network.

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Legislation in Kentucky would give a person who has a terminal illness but is of sound mind the ability to request a medication they could self-administer to end their life at a time of their choosing.

Kentuckians who have traveled to places where medical aid in dying is legal in order to help a loved one end their suffering say they support the bill.

In 2019, Deborah McElhannon traveled from Shelby County all the way to Switzerland with her husband, whose metastatic kidney cancer left him in unbearable pain, to receive what she called “compassionate relief.”

“Within fewer than 30 seconds he was asleep,” said McElhannon. “And in less than another minute he was gone. He had said many times during his illness, ‘I just want to go to sleep and end this.’ And it was as quick and peaceful as he wanted.”

A 2020 Medscape survey found 55% of more than 5,000 doctors said they believe medical aid in dying should be available.

However, the American Medical Association maintains its opposition to this end-of-life option, calling the practice “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.”

The bill’s primary sponsor, State Rep. Josie Raymond – D-Louisville – said the bill offers ways to help terminally ill Kentuckians talk openly and honestly about end-of-life options with their medical providers and families.

“We believe that it’s a compassionate one,” said Raymond, “and a badly needed solution for families, for caretakers, for patients, who are suffering unnecessarily.”

Jefferson County resident Kate Cunningham and her husband temporarily moved to Washington State last year so he could receive medical end-of-life care.

She explained he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2016, and after chemotherapy, survived only on liquid nutrition.

Last spring, he was diagnosed again, this time with an untreatable form of esophageal cancer.

“We don’t treat our pets that way,” said Cunningham. “We should not treat loving partners that way, just force them to starve themselves to death to rid themselves of terminal illness.”

In a 2020 Gallup poll, nearly three-quarters of Americans said they support the option of medical aid in dying, for themselves or loved ones.

Eleven jurisdictions have already passed laws to legalize it.

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