Montana State University

MSU Extension program receives $873,963 grant to assess tribal homes for health

January 27, 2010 -- Anne Pettinger Cantrell, MSU News Service


MSU Extension Housing and Environmental Health Specialist Michael Vogel tests a water heater recently for carbon monoxide. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.   High-Res Available

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
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Montana State University Extension's Housing and Environmental Health Program has a received a three-year, $873,963 grant for health assessments of tribal homes throughout Montana and training to tribes throughout the United States and Alaska.

The grant is from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and will create the national Tribal Healthy Homes Assessment and Training Center at MSU. The funds will enable healthy homes specialists to conduct health assessments of hundreds of tribal homes in Montana over the next two years.

It is the first project at MSU to be awarded funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, sometimes called stimulus money.

"The mission of Extension is outreach and education, so this program fits in perfectly with that mission," said Michael Vogel, MSU extension housing and environmental health specialist.

With the grant, a healthy homes practitioner with MSU Extension will visit 500 tribal homes on reservations across the state upon request. During those visits, she will perform a variety of tests, including radon and carbon monoxide testing. Each visit is valued at $500, but it will be performed for free.

Each homeowner or primary resident who requests to participate in the assessment will also receive a kit of products that they can use to clean and detect high moisture. If they don't already have one, participants will also receive a fire extinguisher and carbon monoxide detector. The healthy homes practitioner will also leave each homeowner or resident with a summary of the assessment, which will include recommendations and resources for help in mitigating problems.

"We are really trying to enhance our ability to provide greater quality outreach to Montana's native communities," Vogel said. "We've found that every house, whether it's on a reservation or not, will have something you can do to improve its health."

The grant does not include funding to fix problems found within homes. However, Vogel says the assessments will allow homeowners and residents to be better educated about the health of their homes, and he says the program should build capacity within Native American communities to work with housing and health agencies. Vogel hopes to use the results of the assessments to secure additional funding for mitigation through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The grant will also allow Vogel and his team to establish a set of characteristics that comprise a healthy home. Vogel said healthy homes are free of carbon monoxide, lead, pesticides, hazardous household products, and have clean water and air, among other things.

MSU Extension also plans to provide training opportunities to tribes in nine regions of the United States about how to do an audit or assessment of homes.

"Our first duty is to serve Montanans. But, we provide a lot of leadership for a number of different national programs," Vogel said.

The MSU Extension network consists of Extension agents who are based in Montana's counties, Indian reservations and tribal colleges, and specialists based on campus at MSU in Bozeman.

Extension's Housing and Environmental Health Program offers practical information, workshops and training courses in areas such as indoor air quality, pollution prevention, new construction, homes safety, water quality, waste reduction and many other topics that are useful to Montana's consumers.

For more information, visit http://tribalhealthyhomes.org/.

Michael Vogel, (406) 994-3451 or mvogel@montana.edu