LANSING, Mich (AP) — The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation donated $25 million to Michigan State University to expand public health in Flint, Michigan, it was announced on Wednesday.
The grant will bolster MSU's public health program in Flint, adding 18 tenure-track faculty members, along with other support, University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said at a media conference.
Officials at the event said focus areas for research by the faculty will include mental health, addiction and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, among other public health topics.
The announcement came as Flint still heals from a water crisis that started in 2014 when the city's water supply was switched to the Flint River without properly treating the pipes to avoid lead contamination.
In the last decade, even before the water crisis, Mott had given MSU $12 million to expand and relocate its public health program from East Lansing to Flint, in addition to granting $7.7 million to renovate the former The Flint Journal building to be the new home of the program.
Shortly after the ribbon was cut on the building, the need for public health research became even more important, Mott Foundation President and CEO Ridgway White said at the news conference.
Research began in 2014 and it was in 2015 that Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha discovered the link between children's elevated blood lead levels in Flint and the change in the city’s water source.
The predominately Black city has also hosted MSU's Dr. Debra Furr-Holden who's done research toward curbing the racial disparity in COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state.
Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley added that programs like the one MSU operates in Flint help lift the quality of life for everyone in the state.
“We talk about health care disparities, especially in communities of color or low to moderate income areas'" he said. "We need programs like this, partnerships like this, to make sure that we can deliver a better quality of life.”
Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.