By Darlene C. Carey
“Let’s get to work. Let’s move some dirt,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer encouraged at the 2020 State of the State address, urging transitional change throughout the State of Michigan.
Whitmer discussed the need for outreach for new moms and families, especially in unrepresented and marginalized areas stating, “This year, my budget will include extension of health coverage for a full year for low income women who have had babies.”
One action related to those goals is the appointment of Flint native Ninah Sasy, the state’s Office of Clean Water Public Advocate, to loaned duty in Flint. According a press release from the City of Flint, Sasy will serve as an adviser to the Flint administration to add capacity and strategic planning around health services available to residents.
Sasy began her work with the City of Flint Jan. 17. Among her duties is providing strategic direction to the city’s team of health navigators, who provide outreach and work to raise awareness of the resources that are available to residents.
“It is a blessing for us to have such a high-caliber person working with us in this vital space,” Mayor Sheldon Neeley said.
She will continue in her position as a Clean Water Public Advocate for the State of Michigan, but is being specifically assigned to support the city of Flint’s efforts, according to Marjory Raymer, the city’s director of communications.
Sasy not only has her roots here in Flint, as she is a graduate of Hamady High School, but also brings a skill set necessary for analyzing existing and on-going problems targeting this area. She earned a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory science from Michigan State University and a masters in science administration from Central Michigan University.
She is familiar with issues and challenges surrounding mothers and families, especially mothers of color, as she has “managed several statewide public health and emergency response initiatives, most recently leading the development of the Mother Infant Health and Equity Improvement Plan for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS),” according to Raymer.
Sasy has worked nearly 15 years in public health, according to the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association website, which supports the mission “to reduce racial inequities in breastfeeding support for black families.”
Raymer added, “In her role as senior strategist with MDHHS, she was responsible for developing innovative solutions and partnerships to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies in Michigan.”
According to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), the Clean Water Public Advocate was established by Gov. Whitmer in Executive Order 2019-06, which created EGLE and the Office of the Clean Water Public Advocate, which was newly started in 2019. More information on EGLE is available at their website at Michigan.gov/MIEnvironment.
The need for a designated counsel for Flint came in response for a perceived need to ramp up investigating Flint residents’ complaints and concerns about drinking water, Raymer stated.
Asked about her recent appointment, Sasy said, “We continue to assess the current status of the city’s public health efforts to determine our strategic priorities moving forward. We will continue to engage residents in this process and will share additional information as plans come together.”
The city administration urges citizens to contact health navigators at (810) 237-2005 or call the City of Flint Information Desk at (810) 766-7165.
EVM Staff Writer Darlene Carey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.