Ohio wants more done to close child lead poisoning cases

CLEVELAND (AP) — Local health authorities that investigate Ohio cases of childhood lead poisoning have been warned they must do more to close open cases and to reach affected youngsters’ guardians because failure to make that contact has led to too many cases never being investigated or addressed with intervention.

Most of those 14 “delegated authorities” have submitted “action plans” for closing open cases, as the state demanded, but say officials relying on inaccurate information about how many cases are open have wrongly implied they’re not keeping up with their job, The Plain Dealer (http://bit.ly/2md7gMk) reported.

Thirteen of the programs were sent a letter last month from Ohio Department of Health Director Rick Hodges, along with a list of open cases since 2011 from each recipient’s jurisdiction, sometimes numbering several hundred. Cleveland, which has been working to clear a years-old backlog of cases, didn’t get a letter but instead met with ODH officials to discuss that effort.

Many of the lead programs found their lists of open cases inaccurate. A Cuyahoga County program was told it had 435 open cases but believes at least half of those were closed, and at least a third of the cases on Cincinnati’s list were duplicate or not in its jurisdiction, according to officials from those programs.

ODH has acknowledged that the shift to a new tracking database introduced in 2011 created some incomplete or duplicate entries about cases handled by the programs, which sign contracts with the state to conduct the investigations.

Nearly all of the programs already have submitted their “action plans” for closing cases that are still open, ODH spokeswoman Melanie Amato said.

Some of the programs contend the letters from the state presented new, stricter guidelines about what steps lead programs take and whom they contact to try to locate poisoned children before cases can be closed.

But Amato said the policies governing the lead programs haven’t changed and that the letters were meant to help ensure those authorities take “necessary steps to make sure children are not living in housing know to have unsafe lead levels.”

Ohio wants more done with child lead poisoning