AP NEWS

South Bend primary schools to offer free lead tests

March 19, 2018

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Free blood-lead tests will be available to hundreds of kindergartners and first graders at South Bend’s 18 primary schools starting next school year.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg recently announced the initiative, saying children need to be tested so that the community can “fully address the scope of the issue.”

The city is teaming up with the South Bend Community School Corp. and the St. Joseph County Health Department to launch the program, the South Bend Tribune reported.

The health department’s education director, Robin Vida, said details about the program’s cost and how testing will be done still need to be determined.

She said under the plan, finger-prick tests would be conducted by nurses from schools and the health department. Each school would schedule a day for the tests, which would require parents’ permission. Tests will be free for all families, but the process for signing up hasn’t yet been determined.

“We plan to start in September and be done by the end of the school year,” Vida said.

Vida increasing testing is “critical because the quality of the data we have so far on blood lead poisoning in South Bend is fairly poor.” She said about 8 percent of children are currently being tested annually.

Lead-based paint in old homes has been a problem in the city for decades, but officials began organizing efforts to combat the problem after Indiana released testing data in 2016. The figures showed an unusually high percentage of children had elevated blood lead levels near the city’s northwest side.

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Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com