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Charges won't be filed against Milwaukee Health Department for its childhood lead poisoning prevention program

Posted at 10:58 AM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 12:38:43-04

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office announced Thursday it would not be filing charges against Milwaukee Health Department's lead program.

Back in 2018, the district attorney's office launched a probe into the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program after the Milwaukee Health Department released two reports assessing operations and making recommendations for "corrective actions" in the program.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice conducted the probe to determine if the health department had violated a Wisconsin statute. The statute, according to the district attorney's office, requires health services to conduct specific protocols after a child's test results come back with an elevated blood lead level.

The statute states that health departments must investigate the lead levels where the child lived, and if high levels are found, the department must issue an order that "requires reduction or elimination."

The Milwaukee District Attorney's Office determined that the Milwaukee Health Department failed to comply with the statute mandates. However, the records the district attorney's office used to come to this conclusion are "unreliable."

"The Wisconsin Department of Health Service (DHS) report found that the STELLAR records, which was the electric filing system used by MHD, and MHD’s paper files were inconsistent," the attorney's office wrote in a press release. "A prosecution looking to find the truth cannot be based on unreliable records."

According to the release, the attorney's office simply found that the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program was mismanaged, which is not a crime. And there is insufficient credible and reliable evidence that proves a knowing violation.

"Further, as a result of a lack of reliable records, there is no reliable documented evidence that, while MHD may have stated policies that were inconsistent with the statutes, those stated polices were set with an intentional disregard for the mandates of the statutes. While this is consistent with an overall assessment that the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program was mismanaged, that is not a crime," the press release read.

The attorney's office did go on to say that management improvements have been made since the probe began in 2018.

You can read the full release from the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office below:

Following the announcement from the district attorney's office, the Milwaukee Health Department issued the following statement:

"The Milwaukee Health Department is thankful to Attorney General Kaul, the Wisconsin Department of Justice, and the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office for their diligent investigation into our Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention program. Childhood lead poisoning is a public health crisis in Milwaukee, and eradicating it from our community is a top priority. Any level of lead poisoning is devastating and unacceptable. We are grateful to close this chapter of the Health Department’s history. With guidance from the Public Health Foundation and Wisconsin Department of Health Services and in collaboration with community organizations, we are dedicated to ensuring such oversights in the department never happen again."

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