As East Chicago Deals With Lead, Health Dept. Says It Keeps Hoosiers Safe In Crises

Sep 22, 2016

The press release lauds the state's preparedness team for keeping Hoosiers safe, but can that be said in the case of East Chicago?
Credit Nick Janzen / Indiana Public Broadcasting

Three weeks into what some agencies refer to as “National Preparedness Month,” the Indiana Department of Health has sent out a press release congratulating itself on the state’s response to health crises and reminding Hoosiers to keep themselves safe from public health concerns. But the affirmation comes at a strange time -- during a public health crisis in East Chicago.

The release says Hoosiers should protect themselves against health emergencies such as Zika, Ebola and HIV. But could East Chicago residents have protected themselves against a site where state and federal officials have been measuring lead levels in the soil since 1985?

“You know, the best thing people can do, maybe, is just try to do research; educate themselves on things like lead. That’s a good question,” says state Director of Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response Lee Christenson

The Health Department has provided $100,000 for blood lead testing and is helping local health officials respond to the crisis. But East Chicago State Senator Lonnie Randolph says he’s puzzled by the timing and the nature of the press release.

“Anything else should be secondary – you shouldn’t even be thinking about press releases, OK? PR is the last thing that should be on your mind," Randolph says. "Service and help should be the main focal point of this whole endeavor right now.”

Randolph and Christenson both say Hoosiers should be the first caretakers of their own health and that the government should assist in extraordinary circumstances where individual resources are insufficient.