Lead Abatement: It’s a Good Thing and Whitehouse Knows It

From the Whitehouse Press office:

 Providence Receives $3.9M in Federal Funding for Lead Safety

Providence, RI – Today, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline announced that Providence’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) has received $3.9 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to protect city residents from the hazards of lead-based paint in their homes.

The funding will be used as part of DPD’s Lead Safe Providence Program, which coordinates existing city services to mitigate lead hazards in Providence’s low-income communities. The funding will support the building or renovation of 250 safe, healthy, and sustainable housing units in the city.

“Lead poisoning is a preventable tragedy that dramatically impacts a child’s ability to learn and has a significant cost for schools and our society. Without this federal funding, fewer parents would be able to protect their children from lead hazards that may be present in their homes. Too many children and families right here in Rhode Island remain at risk. We must be proactive and continue to invest in the health and development of our children,” said Senator Jack Reed, who was awarded the 2014 National Child Health Champion Award by the National Center for Healthy Housing and the Rhode Island Childhood Lead Action Project. Earlier this year, Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, successfully restored $15 million in federal funding for the CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

“Rhode Islanders continue to deal with the toxic legacy of lead paint. In 2013, over 1,000 Rhode Island children under the age of six, including more than 400 in Providence, were diagnosed with lead poisoning,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who, while serving as Rhode Island Attorney General, took legal action against lead paint companies over the risk they presented to the public. “I applaud Mayor Taveras on his efforts to respond to the health risks from lead paint, and I am grateful to see federal funds helping to keep Rhode Island families healthy and safe in their homes.”

“Lead hazards have been on the decline since Rhode Island passed crucial lead-paint legislation, but there is still much work to be done to bring our state into compliance. Lead paint poses a significant health risk to Rhode Islanders, and children in particular, and this funding will go a long way to making homes across our state safer for everyone,” said Congressman Jim Langevin.

“Children deserve a healthy home free from the serious danger of lead poisoning and these federal funds will help protect children and families from the hazards of lead paint,” said Congressman David Cicilline. “I will continue working with my colleagues, Mayor Taveras and other local officials to ensure our communities have the resources they need to remove lead paint from homes and improve the health and well-being of Rhode Island families.”

“With the support of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s lead abatement program over the past 15 years, our city has addressed the hazards of household lead paint in 1500 units for Providence children and their families,” said Providence Mayor Angel Taveras. “These additional funds allow us to continue the work to improve the well-being, educational potential and life prospects of all residents. I’m grateful to the congressional delegation for their efforts on our behalf.”

The funding comes in the form of two grants from HUD programs designed to help cities reduce risks from lead-based paint and other housing-related environmental hazards. Providence has received $3.5 million from HUD’s Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration program, which assists cities with the highest incidence of lead-based paint to implement programs to protect residents. The City has also received $400,000 in supplemental funding from HUD’s Healthy Homes program, which helps cities to coordinate their response to housing-related hazards.

Sen. Whitehouse Steps Up for Mental Health Parity

Good news for the mental health professions, who desperately need better tools for managing health Information:

Whitehouse Introduces Legislation to Improve Mental Health Care


Washington, DC – In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) made an unprecedented investment in our medical infrastructure, providing almost $20 billion in incentive funds for health information technology.  However, an important group of health care providers were excluded from these incentives: behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment professionals and facilities.  Today, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (S. 1517) to correct that inequity.


“In the wake of this week’s tragic mass shooting in Washington, we are once again confronting questions about the treatment of mental illness in America,” said Whitehouse.  “Many questions remain about the shooting, but one thing is crystal clear: mental health is just as important as physical health.  This legislation will extend to mental and behavioral health professionals the same assistance given to other health providers, which will help them invest in vital health information technology.”


The Behavioral Health Information Technology Act would enable behavioral health providers, including psychologists, community mental health centers, and psychiatric hospitals, among others, to receive incentive payments for the adoption and meaningful use of electronic health records.  More specifically, it would:

  • ·         Expand the types of providers eligible for Medicare incentives for the use of electronic health records to include licensed psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, and psychiatric hospitals;
  • ·         Expand eligibility for Medicaid meaningful use incentive payments to include community mental health centers, mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals, licensed psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers; and
  • ·         Allows electronic health record incentive payments to eligible professionals and hospitals under Medicare Advantage plans.

Senator Whitehouse previously introduced a version of this bill in the Senate in 2010.  Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy also championed this issue in the House until he left office. 



Interview with Sheldon Whitehouse at Netroots Nation 2012

Short interview with Sen. Whitehouse in which he extolls the virtues of Netroots Nation, appreciates the value of the Occupy Movement, and talks about his efforts to keep funding for wellness and health. He also talks about his phone conversation with President Obama following the Buffet Rule vote in the Senate, and how the fight is not over to change our tax policies to support the middle class.

Thank You, Senator Whitehouse

It’s always the little things that really get on your nerves. From ProJo.com…

07:09 AM EST on Thursday, December 16, 2010

Journal Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON, D.C. — It may be, as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse put it, “far from the most serious issue we face,” but he may be in for some serious fan mail with Wednesday’s enactment of his bill to crack down on noisy TV ads.

The Rhode Island Democrat was on hand at the White House as President Obama signed the measure, known formally as the CALM Act, for Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation.

“Most Americans experience the frustration of abrasively loud television commercials, with advertisers grabbing for our attention by ramping up the volume,” Whitehouse said in a news release issued by his office. “Quieting these commercials to normal volume will mean one less annoyance in our daily lives.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., sponsored the House version of the CALM TV ad bill. She told the Wall Street Journal recently that the CALM Act is the most popular piece of legislation she’s sponsored in her 18 years in Congress. “If I’d saved 50 million children from some malady, people would not have the interest that they have in this,” she said.

This won’t take effect for a year or two, but it will make my home a more peaceful place. So many times, my blogging is rudely disturbed when the game (whatever, there’s always a game being played somewhere on Earth), which is white noise to me, is interrupted by a blasting commercial for male enhancement, or feminine protection, or ‘free’ insurance for the already insured.

I like to sit with Mr. Green, but this kind of thing drives me to declare that television is the voice of Satan (two words–‘buy this’) and stomp off to a quieter place. Thank you, Senator Whitehouse. It may be a small thing, but so is a mosquito.

They Should’ve Talked to Sheldon Whitehouse

Bob Herbert in today’s NYT on USDA official Shirley Sherrod– an op-ed called, ‘Thrown to the Wolves’.

Ms. Sherrod was not even called into an office to be fired face to face. She got the shocking news in her car. “They called me twice,” she told The Associated Press. “The last time, they asked me to pull over to the side of the road and submit my resignation on my BlackBerry, and that’s what I did.”

This is brutal, and reflects badly on the Obama administration.

Someone should have talked to our Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. When he met with constituents at the Butcher Block Deli several months ago he was asked about defunding ACORN. This was at the height of the hysteria. He said that his time as an attorney general had given him a great regard for the principle of innocent until proved guilty. ACORN had its problems, but was hanged on trumped up evidence, it turned out.

You can’t keep your principles when you react to every news cycle. The more that comes out about Shirley Sherrod the more disgraceful this episode becomes.

In 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, there was a news story that some right-wing journalist was looking for examples of rich white people who died in that disaster. There were no such cases. At the time I was going to the ‘No Time to be Silent’ vigil on North Main Street in Providence, and took the microphone to sing a song I had been inspired to write–
‘Looking for Corpses in All the Wrong Places’.

Some people are desperately trolling for examples of black racism oppressing white people.

My minister gave me a good take on that. He said that the real harm comes from prejudice plus power. When prejudice can shut doors and systematically exclude millions of Americans from equal opportunity we need systemic reform.

Shirley Sherrod was probably collateral damage in a political game aimed at discrediting the NAACP and black people generally. Sadly, the point she was making when her words were taken out of context is that we need to look beyond our differences and recognize our common need for justice.

It will be our loss if she leaves public life. And Sheldon Whitehouse had it right, that everyone deserves a hearing.

Senator Whitehouse

Our own Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is praised on Washington Monthly blog.

But yesterday, Whitehouse didn’t hold back, blasting Senate Republicans for their “desperate, no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, falsehood, obstruction and fear.” He warned the GOP of a “day of judgment” by the electorate, which the senator said leaves Republicans “terrified.”

Whitehouse added, “When it turns out there are no death panels, when there is no bureaucrat between you and your doctor, when the ways your health care changes seem like a good deal to you, and a pretty smart idea, when the American public sees the discrepancy between what really is, and what they were told by the Republicans, there will be a reckoning. There will come a day of judgment about who was telling the truth.”

Glad I voted for him.

The bill we’re looking at is flawed and weak, and a huge disappointment, but I hope it passes. I was at a health reform demonstration, and a small business owner, middle-aged like me, said that Social Security and Medicare also started out small and weak. He hoped that passage would be a start, not the end of reform. I have to hope. There is no good alternative.

The present system is a mess that will get more expensive and exclusionary every year. But the proposed health care bill would come in as a mandate to buy into an insurance system that is dysfunctional. Dysfunctional, that is, in producing health over profits. It’s a painful dilemma.

I think the term ‘insurance reform’ led us down the wrong road. We don’t need insurance, we need access to health services. Insurance reform is a tiny step, I hope in the right direction.

I knew that Barack Obama would break my heart. It’s what politicians do. They politic. Expecting them not to is like expecting a dog not to bark. Politicians depend on the people to lead them. It would be a mistake to either think that the President will fix everything, or else that he has broken so many promises that we’ll just withdraw for four years.

The religious right does not wield power because our politicians are full of religious spirit– they wield power because they vote, and move votes.

Progressives have to do the same. Keep on calling, writing, blogging, demonstrating and especially–voting.