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Social Workers Continue Boots-on-Ground Work in Flint

Michigan social workers are helping install water filters in Flint homes. (Crossing Waters)
Michigan social workers are helping install water filters in Flint homes. (Crossing Waters)

April 18, 2016

LANSING, Mich. – The national spotlight on Flint may have dimmed, but the city's water crisis is far from over.

And that's why social workers in Michigan are continuing their boots-on-the-ground work to assist residents.

Allan Wachendorfer, director of public policy with the Michigan chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), explains that the lead in the water has caused extensive infrastructure damage and human injury, along with social and personal disruption.

And he says despite the efforts of many volunteers, there are people who are unaware of how they can ensure the water in their home is safe for use.

"There's a lot of folks doing a lot of great work, but for whatever reason people are getting missed,” he states. “And so that's our goal: Find a way to get to those folks and help them and get them the help they need.”

Social workers, through the coordination of the disaster relief group Crossing Water, are making home visits to provide filter installations, education, water and to connect Flint residents to other needed services.

But Wachendorfer notes that more volunteers are needed, including medical and mental health professionals, social workers and people with good people skills willing to help their neighbors.

Clinical social worker Beverly Davidson is among the volunteers going door-to-door, looking for those in the most need of help. She says that includes people who are elderly, have a disability or do not have a vehicle or computer to access information and support.

"We're talking about families who just don't really have any resources in general and then now they're not able to use water from their sink, and it puts an extreme burden on them,” she explains. “Those are families that are really seriously getting left behind by the response from the government regarding this crisis."

Davidson also is serving on a task force with NASW-Michigan to develop strategies to better respond to the crisis.

She contends Flint should be declared a disaster zone and a temporary water system constructed to provide clean water to all households.

"People are having to go get water bottles every single day in order to cook, clean, bathe, etc.” she points out. “And that's nearly impossible. There has to be a better way of getting clean water to be disseminated to families."

The task force is demanding better coordination among local, state and federal leaders in relief efforts.

And in order to prevent future crises, Davidson says the task force also is calling for a repeal of the Emergency Manager law so local leaders can control their own government.


Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI