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Michigan legislators call for additional Head Start money for Flint children

The Flint River and the Flint water treatment plant.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, as well as Congressman Dan Kildee, are asking Washington to help enroll all eligible Flint kids in Head Start.

The three sent a letter this week to Blanca Enriquez, director of the Office of Head Start, asking that the program be made available to all eligible children in Flint to help mitigate the damage of the lead-tainted water.

"We believe it is critical that we continue to do all we can to address the lasting health effects previous lead exposure may have on children of Flint," the group wrote in the letter. 

The letter also notes that studies have shown early treatment can help mitigate the long-term effects of lead exposure. 

Senator Peters said in an interview that while there are plenty of issues to address in Flint, children there are particularly vulnerable.

"Certainly lead in drinking water's a bad thing for everybody, adults included, but it is particularly harmful for children as their brains are developing," he said. "That means reading-recovery programs, and just the whole list of health, nutrition, and education programs."

Peters added that he is working on creating a long-term fund for the children of Flint as they grow up. 

Children under the age of six are eligible for Head Start, which provides school-readiness programs that include health and education services. Congress appropriated $135 million to Early Head Start last year, and the Michigan legislators are hoping part of that money will be used in Flint. 

More than 6,000 Flint kids are eligible for Head Start, but just a little more than 1,100 are enrolled now, according to Patrick Fisher of Health and Human Services.  

Peters said he and his colleagues are hoping for a response to the request in the next couple of days. 

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