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Flint ‘building hope,’ supporting kids after water crisis, says Flint doctor


By Emily Lawler

June 1, 2016

The pediatrician who rang the alarm over rising lead levels in Flint children addressed the Mackinac Policy Conference Wednesday, saying that Flint was flipping the story to support its children.

“It is a place of hope. We are building hope,” Hanna-Attisha said.

She said Flint was the birthplace of General Motors, and was once an economic powerhouse. But as the city’s economy collapsed and coffers shrank, the state brought in an emergency manager in 2011. Under an emergency manager the city switched to the Flint River as a water source. The more corrosive water leached lead from pipes into the water supply.

“Suddenly the city, the state that used to be so proud, was put out there as a sort of petri dish of pollution, corruption, austerity, injustice. They called us tragic and they called us sad. And I can tell you I felt sad. And I felt angry. And I felt betrayed. But then I got to work, because our focus had to be on our kids,” Hanna-Attisha said.

She said the water threatened the tomorrows of the city’s children. But the city is healing itself, Hanna-Attisha said. The treatment? Investing in kids. Hanna-Attisha said that was happening through evidence-based prevention and services for kids. Things like school health services, early intervention, good nutrition and behavioral health care.

The state and federal governments have stepped in to help provide those services. The state has distributed water, added school nurses and taken other steps to help Flint as it grapples with the water crisis. The federal government hasexpanded Medicaid to get affected people health care and extending a nutrition program.

How Flint is approaching the crisis — through helping kids — is going to be what the city is known for in the future, Hanna-Attisha said.

“We used to build strong cars, but now we are building strong kids,” she said.

The Detroit Regional Chamber is raising funds to help Flint at its annual Mackinac Policy Conference, and had raised $90,000 as of Wednesday afternoon.

The conference will spotlight Flint again during a Thursday panel featuring Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation President Ridgway H. White.

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