Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 94, Issue 6, pp 776–779 | Cite as

Voices from Flint: Community Perceptions of the Flint Water Crisis

  • Nia Jeneé Heard-GarrisEmail author
  • Jessica Roche
  • Patrick Carter
  • Mahshid Abir
  • Maureen Walton
  • Marc Zimmerman
  • Rebecca Cunningham
Brief Report


We describe the self-reported socioeconomic and health impacts, as well as the coping mechanisms employed by a drug-using cohort of adults during the Flint water crisis (FWC) in Flint, Michigan. Participants from an ongoing longitudinal Emergency Department study were contacted between April 2016 and July 2016 and completed a survey focusing on exposure, consequences, and coping strategies. One hundred thirty-three participants (mean age = 26, 65% African-American, 61% public assistance) completed the survey (37.9% response rate). Of these, 75% reported exposure to water with elevated lead levels. Of these, 75% reported additional monthly expenses resulting from exposure. Almost 40% of parents reported changes in their children’s health and 65% reported changes to their health since the FWC. Participants indicated the use of both positive (e.g., advice from trusted neighbors, 99.0%) and negative coping mechanisms (e.g., increased substance use, 20.0%) in response to this public health emergency. High-risk Flint residents reported multiple social, economic, and health-related consequences stemming from the FWC. Policymakers should consider additional resources for those affected, including increased access to mental health to aid recovery within the community.


Flint water crisis Environmental health Health 



The authors wish to acknowledge project staff, including Kaneesha Wallace, MBA, Linping Duan, MS, and Sonia Kamat, for their assistance in data and manuscript preparation. Finally, special thanks are owed to the patients and medical staff of the Hurley Medical Center (HMC) for their support of this project.


Dr. Heard-Garris is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program. The funders had no role in design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, or interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval ofthe manuscript; or decision to submit the manuscript for publication.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nia Jeneé Heard-Garris
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jessica Roche
    • 2
  • Patrick Carter
    • 2
  • Mahshid Abir
    • 3
  • Maureen Walton
    • 4
  • Marc Zimmerman
    • 5
  • Rebecca Cunningham
    • 2
  1. 1.The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Michigan Medical SchoolAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.University of Michigan Injury Center, University of Michigan School of MedicineAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Department of Emergency MedicineUniversity of Michigan Medical SchoolAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.University of Michigan Addiction Research Center, Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan School of MedicineAnn ArborUSA
  5. 5.Department of Health Behavior & Health EducationUniversity of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA

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