CLS’ Lead Advocacy Initiative Gains Momentum at the Legislature

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As Connecticut’s 2018 legislative session draws to a close, CLS advocates see an opportunity to advance justice and opportunity for vulnerable children by pushing for legislation that mandates consideration of new standards to protect against lead poisoning.

Every year, hundreds of children across Connecticut are poisoned by exposure to lead paint. That exposure can have lifelong effects on their health, ability to learn, access to good jobs, and even likelihood of arrest and incarceration.

Last August, CLS brought on full-time legal fellow Helen Li, a 2017 Yale Law School graduate, to play point in its new initiative to prevent lead poisoning and ensure equal access to opportunity for children who suffer from lead’s effects. Supported by a Yale Law School Public Interest Fellowship, Ms. Li has coordinated CLS staff in a range of representation, education, and advocacy strategies. Her work has included:

  • Creating educational materials aimed at parents, legislators, scholars, and advocates;
  • Partnering with the New Haven Legal Assistance Association to win a favorable judgment against the City of New Haven on behalf of a child poisoned by lead paint;
  • Exploring opportunities to establish medical-legal partnerships in community health centers to provide legal services to patients dealing with lead poisoning and other environmental health risk factors.

Perhaps the most significant advocacy objective has been the passage of legislation, HB 5403, which seeks to create a task force to consider nationally-accepted best practices and recommend a suite of comprehensive lead poisoning reforms.

The bill was favorably approved by a joint committee of the legislature, and now awaits consideration by the full House and Senate.

This is the time to act. In her testimony before the legislature, Ms. Lee pointed to improvements that a number of Connecticut’s sister states have made to their lead poisoning prevention programs — while Connecticut has been silent. “Connecticut’s system of addressing lead poisoning needs to be reformed,” she explains. “Right now, the state waits until a child has been permanently injured before removing lead hazards and provides little support after a child has been poisoned. The system fails generations of children — and, ultimately, it compromises the future, and the finances, of our entire state.”

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