Milwaukee lead poisoning issues improved, 2020 audit shows

A Milwaukee alderman said the city is turning the ship on lead issues after getting new information Wednesday, Feb. 23. 

It has been a tumultuous few years for the health department. In 2021, it admitted it "mismanaged" its Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. A recent audit shows evidence of change.

"As a parent, it was a nightmare," said Deanna Branch.

In 2018, Branch’s son, Aidan, was hospitalized for elevated lead levels in his blood. He was 6 years old.

"Thinking about it now, I was just so confused," said Branch.

Branch would soon learn lead in the paint and possibly water in her Milwaukee apartment was to blame.

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The Milwaukee Health Department has been under the microscope for its lead abatement efforts. Following a 2020 audit, an outside firm says it's seeing improvements.

"That was a nice surprise," said Alderman Michael Murphy. "For the last eight, nine years, it has always been bad news."

Records show case follow-up, documentation and timely responses have all improved since the 2020 audit.

"Our nursing program has improved significantly, as well as our response times when we’re notified to an elevated blood level and how quickly we’re able to contact the family and get to the home," said Tyler Weber with the Milwaukee Health Department.

Weber said billing and working with providers are areas that still need improvement.

"There is deep and complex socio-economic challenges within the neighborhoods we’re trying to work and where the highest lead levels are," said Weber. "We think hiring a social worker or two to work with the most challenging cases."

Branch’s son has gotten better. She hopes this issue in Milwaukee continues to do the same.

"My hope is no family has to go through this, and if they do, they have help and support," said Branch.

Potential areas of improvement also include documentation, aligned data systems and better addressing barriers in complex cases. 


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