Supporting the Lead Testing Clinic for children in Milwaukee

UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Wisconsin is dedicated to improving health outcomes for the populations it serves by acting on our core values of compassion and relationships. We do our best work by listening to and advocating for our members while developing meaningful relationships with local community-based organizations to make a positive impact on the communities we serve.

In a recent collaboration with the MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary, our Wisconsin health plan worked to ensure that transportation was available for lead testing in Milwaukee. Although lead poisoning has decreased steadily over the past decade, the number of Wisconsin children being tested for lead dropped sharply in 2020 with 23% fewer tests compared to 2019.1 This reduction was largely driven by testing sites being closed as a COVID-19 precaution. Since there is no safe blood lead level that has been identified for children, it is critical to remain vigilant in efforts to test and identify children who have elevated blood lead levels.

Lead poisoning in Milwaukee

The primary source of lead poisoning in Milwaukee is lead-based paint and leaded household dust.2 Children under the age of 6 years old are more vulnerable to lead poisoning since their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults, and their brain and nervous system are more sensitive. Babies and young children are also more likely to be exposed from touching objects that may have dust and putting their hands in their mouths.

Lead exposure can lead to learning disabilities, increased behavioral problems and increased health problems such as speech and language delays, hearing difficulties, kidney damage and seizures.

MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary’s Lead Testing Clinic

The MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization that offers resources to homeless and at-risk individuals.3 It works with the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin to facilitate a free Lead Testing Clinic available to children under the age of 10.4 The Sanctuary hosts nurses and phlebotomists two to three times per month for lead testing. If a child has elevated blood lead levels, they are scheduled for a follow-up with their primary care physician and lead remediation is scheduled for the place of residence.

While donating hygiene supplies to the clinic, I connected with the program manager, Katie Doss, and learned that transportation to the Sanctuary for lead screening was the program’s biggest need and barrier. She reported that Medicaid members were not able to use their transportation benefit to attend the Lead Testing Clinic since the site-of-service was at a homeless shelter. I discussed the matter with our health plan CEO, Kevin Moore, and he reached out to the Non-Emergency Medical Transport company, MTM. After a conversation about rides being necessary to receive covered services, MTM partnered with us to remove the transportation barrier, and they agreed to cover future transportation needs to the Sanctuary.  


Coverage of transportation has been a great help in reaching the Sanctuary’s goal to get 1000 children tested per year. Katie commented, “Transportation is an essential tool that is so needed. It’s a miracle. It’s a blessing. I’m overwhelmed with enthusiasm. Moving ahead for 2024, this will help us with our goal to test 1000 children. This is one of the biggest milestones. I can’t begin to tell you how much it means to us. It’s remarkable.”

I and all of my colleagues at UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Wisconsin work every day to help our communities by listening to our members, supporting them with compassion and creating strong relationships with local organizations. By working with the Sanctuary and MTM, we are helping improve the health of the community by making lead testing and treatment more accessible for children in Milwaukee.

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