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HHS Awards Emergency Funding for Community Health Center Supporting East Palestine, Ohio Residents

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded $250,000 in emergency funding to Community Action Agency of Columbiana County, a HRSA-funded health center in Lisbon, Ohio, a neighboring town to help support emergency response efforts and follow-up care for people affected by the East Palestine train derailment. This funding will support key response activities, including direct health care services, patient screenings, outreach, and enrollment.

“On Friday, I spoke with Ohio Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff to reiterate HHS’ continued support on the health front for the people of East Palestine during this crisis,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Today’s emergency funding will assist health care professionals providing care to affected residents. This represents another important step in the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government response to the train derailment – building on CDC’s Assessment of Chemical Exposure investigation and additional support provided by HHS and sister federal agencies.”

“The Health Resources and Services Administration stands with the residents of East Palestine at this critical time,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “We are taking action by providing direct financial support to our local community health center partner, Community Action Agency of Columbiana, as they continue their tireless work to serve the health needs of the community.”

Community Action Agency of Columbiana County is providing East Palestine residents with medical, behavioral health, and dental appointments directly through the health center and has deployed their mobile medical unit to the affected area. The health center has also partnered with the Ohio Department of Health and Columbiana County Health Department to support a Health Assessment Clinic for East Palestine area residents who have medical questions or concerns related to the train derailment.

HRSA-supported health centers serve medically underserved populations and communities. HRSA funds nearly 1,400 health centers, collectively operating approximately 15,000 service delivery sites in communities across the country and serving 1 in 11 people nationwide. More than 90% of HRSA-funded health center patients are individuals or families living at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

To locate a HRSA-supported health center, visit: https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/.

At President Biden’s direction, HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – are going door to door in East Palestine to personally check in on each family and provide resources in the wake of the Norfolk Southern train derailment.

HHS has been providing public health assistance to the state of Ohio since the train derailed and deployed a 20-person team from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to East Palestine at Governor DeWine’s request to provide additional public health support and work with local and state public health partners to conduct Assessment of Chemical Exposure (ACE) investigation surveys. In addition, CDC and ATDSR is continuing to coordinate with local, state, and federal authorities and has started conducting ACE surveys of first responders to the derailment.

In response to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s request on February 16 for additional federal public health support, HHS, through the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) – HHS’ national public health agency in charge of protecting communities from harmful health effects related to exposure to natural and man-made hazardous substances – has deployed a team of 20 members to:

  • Conduct an Assessment of Chemical Exposures (ACE) investigation, which is a rapid epidemiologic assessment.
  • Support coordination between state and federal agencies and the Poison Control Centers and the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units exit disclaimer icon.
  • Provide environmental data support, including reviewing environmental sampling data and reviewing and deriving comparison values for chemicals of concern in the environment (as requested).
  • Provide technical assistance on health communication.

On February 20, the Pennsylvania Department of Health also requested assistance from CDC/ATSDR, as follows:

  • Assist with the development, implementation, and analysis of an ACE investigation.
  • Assist with determining the need for ongoing health surveillance or environmental monitoring.
  • Investigate reports provided by the Pittsburgh Poison Center to support understanding of impact and response efforts within this region of Pennsylvania.
  • Assist with review of environmental sampling results and interpretation of compounds without existing comparison values, if requested by the state and the Pennsylvania State Toxicologist.

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