Free blood lead testing event hosted by InterCare Family Health Network for City of Benton Harbor residents on Nov. 20

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Nov. 19, 2021

CONTACT: Lynn Sutfin, 517-241-2112

LANSING, Mich. - InterCare Family Health Network is hosting a blood lead testing event on Saturday, Nov. 20, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for City of Benton Harbor residents, announced the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) today.

Although blood lead tests cannot tell you if you were exposed to lead in the past, testing is particularly important for young children and pregnant persons because exposure to lead early in life has been shown to cause problems with learning, behavior, hearing and growth. For individuals who have elevated blood lead levels, the goals are to identify the source of lead, stop the lead exposure and to talk with their doctor to discuss any other tests or follow-up that might be needed.

Children less than 6 years old with an elevated blood lead level are offered nurse case management through the Berrien County Health Department, which includes a home visit with a registered nurse.

No appointments are necessary, and InterCare is located at 800 M-139 and can be reached by calling 855-869-6900. In an effort to provide city residents with additional access to safe, clean drinking water, InterCare has purchased and will have bottled water available for test participants while supplies last. Staff will also provide COVID-19 vaccinations and booster doses as well as flu shots during the event.

Blood lead testing for children is also being offered through the WIC program and the Berrien County Health Department by calling 800-815-5485 or visiting BCHDMI.org for more information.

Free bottled water continues to be provided by MDHHS and local, paid residents as City of Benton Harbor residents are being encouraged to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods and mixing powdered infant formula.

To arrange water delivery to homebound or residents without transportation in the city of Benton Harbor, contact 211, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Phones that cannot contact 211 should contact 844-875-9211.

The upcoming schedule for bottled water pickup is:

Saturday, Nov. 20

  • Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor, 600 Nate Wells Sr. Drive, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.,
  • Harbor of Hope Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 769 Pipestone Street, 4 - 6 p.m. 

Sunday, Nov. 21

  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, 3 - 5 p.m.
  • Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, 4 - 6 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 22

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. (Self-service)
  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, noon - 2 p.m.

Tuesday, Nov. 23

  • Abundant Life Church of God, 693 Columbus Avenue, noon - 2 p.m.
  • Ebenezer Baptist Church, 214 E. Britain Avenue, 4 - 6 p.m.

Wednesday, Nov. 24

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller Street, 3 - 6 p.m., (Water loaded into vehicles by volunteers)
  • Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe Street, 4 - 6 p.m.

The ongoing response in Benton Harbor includes the city, Berrien County Health Department, local community organizations, MDHHS and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. This action is part of an accelerated, across-the-board effort to reduce the risk of exposure to lead in drinking water while the city replaces all lead service lines.

Additional dates and locations for bottled water pick up will be added to make sure community needs are met. Information will be posted on Michigan.gov/MiLeadSafe.

To ensure the continued success of bottled water distribution locations in Benton Harbor and to recognize the city residents who have been stepping up to donate their time and talent, the State of Michigan has partnered with local agencies to pay city residents who work at state-supported bottled water distribution sites. Individuals who want to serve as community ambassadors to help distribute water should connect with an established distribution site. Individuals or groups who want to serve as unpaid volunteers can sign up on the United Way's online platform.

MDHHS is engaging in a long-term effort to eliminate lead action level exceedances, educate communities on the effects of lead in drinking water, and remove lead service lines. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for the replacement of lead service lines in Benton Harbor in 18 months and the Whitmer-Gilchrist Administration has provided just under $20 million to Benton Harbor to speed up their service line replacement timeline.  

There is no cost to City of Benton Harbor residents for lead service line replacement. To assist with assuring the work can be completed as soon as possible, residents are encouraged to complete the Water Service Line Replacement Agreement available online. Contractors cannot begin work on any property without property owner authorization. Completed forms can be returned to Abonmarche, 95 West Main Street, Benton Harbor, MI 49022 or emailed to bvasher@abonmarche.com.

These efforts also include recently approved funds to remove lead from homes in the city. Families living in Benton Harbor can apply for this service by filling out and mailing in an application that is available online. Residents also can call 866-691-5323 to obtain information. 

For questions about lead, MDHHS can be reached at 866-691-5323 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

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