San Bernardino City News, Mark Farouk
Legislation authored by Assemblymember Eloise Reyes (D-San Bernardino), AB 2276, has been signed by Governor Newsom. AB 2276 was introduced in response to a State Auditor’s Report, Childhood Lead Levels: Millions of Children in Medi-Cal Have Not Received Required Testing for Lead Poisoning that revealed over a million children in the Medi-Cal Program have not been properly screened for lead exposure. AB 2276 creates additional risk factors to be considered by health care providers evaluating children at risk of lead poisoning and requires the Department of Public Health (DPH) to update its funding formulas to local Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Programs. Additionally, AB 2276 requires Medi-Cal managed care plans to identify and report to the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) on all child enrollees six years of age and younger who have missed required blood lead screening tests and requires DHCS to develop and implement procedures to ensure blood lead screening compliance for children receiving Medi-Cal. In addition to Assemblymember Reyes, AB 2276 was jointly authored by Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Dr. Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) and Principally Co-authored by Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino)
“Lead exposure silently steals away the aspiration of our children with debilitating health and developmental effects that can lead to long term and disastrous consequences.” Assemblymember Eloise Reyes continued, “AB 2276 will create mechanisms to ensure that California’s children are receiving their required blood lead tests and related services so that we can protect and treat them before it is too late. California’s children deserve every chance and opportunity to grow up without fear of being exposed to toxic chemicals.”
Under the state’s Medi-Cal program, children are required to be screened for lead exposure at the ages of one and two. Lead exposure in children can lead to learning disabilities and serious health consequences. This is particularly an issue for low-income communities where older homes may subject children to higher risk of lead exposure.
“It doesn’t take an astrophysicist to know how harmful lead can be to children. However, the state has come short in protecting children from exposure to lead,” explained Dr. Quirk. “This bill helps California change course on that failure. Our children deserve better.”
"Millions of children are at risk of lead poisoning and need to be screened and tested," said Assemblymember Salas. "I am pleased the Governor has signed this legislation to ensure that we are protecting our most vulnerable kids from lead poisoning and providing the help they need."
“As a principal co-author of AB 2276, I firmly believe that we must prioritize the health and safety of California children at risk for lead poisoning, particularly since there is no safe blood level for this vulnerable population. I thank Governor Newsom for signing this important bill that will further protect the health and wellbeing of children and families in our state by ensuring that children get the services and testing they need to help prevent and detect lead poisoning,” said Senator Leyva.
“It’s reassuring that California continues to build on our previous legislation, primarily AB 1316 by Dr. Quirk and myself, to ensure our most vulnerable children are kept safe from lead. Any amount of lead is bad for our children’s development and we know that if you are a brown, black, or low income kid you’re more likely to be exposed to lead and far too often treated like you’re disposable. AB 2276 is a common sense bill that continues to correct for this injustice, by ensuring children who are at higher risks are being tested, and that funds to prevent lead poisoning are spent where we need them most. This bill is another good step, but we must continue to invest in the health of brown and black communities like mine if we’re truly going to create a just society that values everyone’s health equally,” stated Assemblymember Cristina Garcia.
The Auditor’s report that found gaps in lead exposure testing for children in the Medi-Cal program was in response to a request made by Assemblymember Reyes and Assemblymember Salas to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee that was approved on March 6th, 2019.
Ultimately, the audit report revealed that between 2009 and 2018, more than 1.4 million of the 2.9 million one- and two-year-old children enrolled in Medi-Cal did not receive any of the required lead tests, and another 740,000 children missed one of the two required tests, meaning only 27% of eligible children received all the required screenings.