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It has been such a tremendous pleasure to serve the residents of Flint, over the past three years, as the City of Flint’s first Chief Public Health Advisor. While it was the most challenging job that I have ever had, it was by far the most gratifying. I want to take this time to thank you for allowing me to serve you and/or for assisting me in serving the residents of Flint. Together, we have accomplished so much:
Health/Health Equity in All Policies (HiAP): Implementation of a Health/Health Equity in All Policies (HiAP) approach to decision making which led to:
– Reinstatement of the City of Flint Technical Advisory Council.
– Selection of the City of Flint’s permanent water source, based primarily on the public health of residents, remaining as GLWA.
– Joint effort between City of Schools to address environmental health needs of children.
– The City and the Genesee County Health Department working together to make sure the public’s health is protected with the Genesee County Board of Health changing their bi-laws to add the City’s Chief Public Health Advisor as a member of the board.
– Refusal to end the Genesee County and City of Flint’s declarations of emergency without approval of the City of Flint Technical Advisory Council’s approval. This was based on a set of criteria that was developed by the COF-TAC and set to be vetted by the community during community sessions being planned.
– Integrated planning with City of Flint staff, including finance, public works, planning and development, legal, etc. to: address water affordability/cost stabilization; pursue opioid litigation; address job opportunity for the City’s most vulnerable populations, and develop safe-affordable housing and sustainable/environmentally friendly neighborhoods.
Sustainability of Services: Funding and partnership opportunities have allowed for increased Public Health and Quality of Life services for City of Flint residents:
– An increase in staff capacity from 4 full time equivalent staff positions to 14 full time employees and 10 seasonal youth workers, and
– An expanded annual budget from $300,000 to approximately $2.3M.
Water Affordability: Through efforts to develop, implement, and coordinate water affordability strategies with technical assistance from Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), Consumers Energy, and the Mott Foundation:
– You will soon hear about Consumers Energy’s expanded commitment to making Flint a model for it’s energy/water efficiency work.
– Along with Dr. Vicki Johnson-Lawrence, we began working with customer service at the water department for improved interactions with staff and residents.
– The Mott Foundation has begun an assessment to determine if an Income-Based water structure is doable in the City of Flint, being the first City in Michigan to make water more affordable to residents struggling to pay their water bills.
Additionally, through efficient spending of the WINN funding, the EPA/EGLE representatives informed us during a meeting that there was an overage of approximately $23M that was available for the City to spend as wished and within spending guidelines. After careful review of funding availability/allowed spending, Mayor Weaver announced that the funding would be used for water credits for residents.
School Water Systems: Along with Flint Community Schools, Dr. Nancy Love, Kettering University, Murdock Manufacturing, and Grey Matter Solutions, we began the validation process of the first-ever school water systems with activated carbon filter, ultrafiltration, and UV light, currently being referred to as “Smart-cubed fountains”.
Resiliency & Mindfulness: In addition to our RECAST work, Mayor Weaver teamed up with the Crim Foundation to declare the City of Flint a Mindfullness City flagship and national launch site for mindfulness initiative as a critical step in helping Flint residents build resilience and reduce the negative impact of stress.
Public Health and Environmental Justice Strategy Development: Utilizing information gathered during “community one-on-one” public forums and three annual Environmental Justice summits a DRAFT City of Flint Public Health and Environmental Justice strategy, entitled “From Crisis to Recovery to Transformation”, has been developed which integrates goals, strategies, and actions that promote resiliency and recovery, economic development, as well as public health.
Public Health and Crisis Emergency Risk Communications: As a community, we work to ensure that science and public health drove the messaging being delivered to Flint residents:
– Multiple fact-based publications were collectively developed with scientists, medical/public health professionals, and persons fluent in varying languages. A loop was developed so that members of the communications group were included in the development of such publications.
– The first phase of a mechanism to easily/quickly communicatewith Flint residents, including Spanish speaking, deaf, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing residents, via text messaging was implemented. Other message dissemination planning is underway.
In closing, I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity thank Mayor Karen Weaver for her unwavering commitment to the health and well-being of Flint residents, for being a forerunner in implementing a Health Equity in All Policies approach to decision-making, for affording me this opportunity. I thank the team that I served with and I wish the new administration all the best as they will be faced daily with competing interests and decisions that will impact generations to come.
As we have long struggled to help all to see that the place that we are in on the crisis-to-recovery-to-transformation spectrum is so much more than a “perception” issue, we must remain steadfast in ensuring that Flint is made whole and that all culpable for the man-made Flint water crisis be held criminally responsible. The world will forever be indebted to Flint for sounding the alarm and bringing attention to this grave Environmental Injustice and those allowed to unfold/exist in black, brown, low-income communities throughout this country.
Finally, as I’ve told Mayor Neeley, while I will no longer be serving as the Chief Public Health Advisor for the City of Flint, I am committed to ensuring public health, resiliency, and recovery services are sustained in Flint and I graciously avail myself to assist in assuring that there are no disruptions in services to Flint residents. If needed, you may contact me at [REDACTED] or [REDACTED] Thank You! And best wishes.
Pamela L. Pugh, DrPH, MS