Toxic City Investigation Review

In December 2016, Mayor Kenney promised to add money to the city’s Lead and Healthy Homes Program. Was that promise kept?


The mayor added $900,000 in fiscal year 2018. Almost half, or $425,000, was used to remediate lead hazards in homes owned by people who didn’t qualify for a federal grant. Health officials also used the new money to hire 11 staffers and to purchase XRF guns (handheld X-ray fluorescent devices that detect lead paint) and vehicles for inspectors. Kenney renewed the $900,000 for this fiscal year. The city also received new federal dollars. Just this month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded Philadelphia $4.1 million to help repair or remove lead paint in 240 homes with low-income families with children.

By Barbara Laker, Dylan Purcell and Wendy Ruderman

Opioids Crisis Review

Even before the year is officially over, health officials are declaring 2018 to be a landmark in Philadelphia’s opioid crisis, marking the first time in at least five years that overdose deaths will have declined. More people sought treatment. More doses of Narcan, the lifesaving overdose reversal spray, were handed out in the city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods.


In short, “all the key numbers are moving in the right direction,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said last week.–20181224.html

By Aubrey Whelan

Increase in Teen Vaping

“While we haven’t seen the report yet, we are extremely concerned about the recent increase in teen use of electronic cigarettes,” said Cheryl Bettigole, director of chronic disease prevention for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. “It has become increasingly clear in recent years that e-cigarettes are dangerous to teens, and that e-cig use appears to make it more likely that a teen will go on to smoke combustible cigarettes.”

By Mari Schaefer

Racial Differences Dictate Tobacco Problems

“The fact that kids aren’t smoking cigarettes is deceptive,” said Cheryl Bettigole, director of chronic disease prevention for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. “Total tobacco use is up.”
City data shows youth cigar use (including cigarillos) 
doubled from 2011 to 2015.

Among black teens specifically, it nearly tripled. On the other hand, white teens were nearly twice as likely to have used a vaping product.

By Aneri Pattani

Naloxone Giveaway Day

Allison Herens, with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, said she started carrying Narcan when she was hired to be the city’s first harm-reduction coordinator. She attended a training on how to use it, then picked it up from a pharmacy. The next day, while riding SEPTA, she said she saw a man overdosing and administered the Narcan, saving his life.

“What most people don’t know about that story is I only actually had the medication because I went to a second pharmacy the day I went to get it,” said Herens. “The first pharmacy not only gave me pushback about using my insurance, but didn’t have it in stock.”

By Nina Feldman

In Philadelphia and in Delaware County and across the state public health workers are busy getting Naloxone into people’s hands for free.

The medication can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose if given in time.

Meg Carter of the Philadelphia Health Department said, “The more people that carry Naloxone and understand what it does and why it is important and can help.”

By John Rawlins

Meg Carter has this to say about why she believes it changes and saves lives.

“If a person’s overdosing, you don’t know what part of their journey they’re in. So they may not be ready for treatment yet but maybe tomorrow they will be. So if you are saving a person’s life and tomorrow they are ready to enter treatment, any life saved is a life saved,” Carter says.

By staff

At the Walgreens in the shadow of the SEPTA El stop at Kensington and Allegheny Avenues, the city Health Department’s harm reduction coordinator, Allison Herens, recalled the day after she decided to start carrying Naloxone, she was put to the test.

While taking SEPTA, she saw a man across the platform was overdosing.

“Using training I had literally just gotten, and the Naloxone in my bag, I was able to save his life,” she explained.

By Steve Tawa

Air Pollution Hearing

The air in Philadelphia is better than it was 25 years ago, according to Health Commissioner Tom Farley. He testified that from having “Severe non-attainment” of EPA standards on polluting chemicals, it now complies with all except for Ozone, where it still falls short of the standard.

“This progress has happened even as the national standards for attainment have become more stringent,” he said.

By Pat Loeb