COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WKBN) – A community health center that has been supporting East Palestine residents is getting a boost in funding.

In the hopes of supporting key response activities, like direct health care services, patient screenings, outreach and enrollment, 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.

The HRSA-funded health center in Lisbon is helping to support emergency response efforts and follow-up care for people affected by the East Palestine train derailment.

“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,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

The Community Action Agency of Columbiana County is providing East Palestine residents with medical appointments directly through the health center, along with deploying mobile medical units to the affected area.

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.

“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.”

As a response to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s request on February 16 for additional federal support, HHS has deployed a team of 20 members in order to conduct tests such as:

  • 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.
  • 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.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health also requested assistance 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.