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July Community Forum Addresses Acreage Health Issues, Grand Jury Report and Hurricane Preparedness
It was a full house at the original Wellington Mall on July 15th for Commissioner Jess Santamaria’s monthly community forum. Besides the announced topics of hurricane preparedness and a grand jury’s report on government corruption, Dr. Alina Alonso, acting director of the Palm Beach County Health Department, spent about 30 minutes discussing the recent rash of cancer cases in The Acreage. “We heard loud and clear that the community wanted an update,” she said.
The Florida Department of Health is investigating the possibility of a cancer cluster that has been brought to light by Acreage residents. Dr. Alonso said the Palm Beach County Health Department is assisting with the investigation, the first phase of which should be completed by mid-August. She assured residents that all data is being tracked and will be posted on the county Health Department’s Web site: http://www.pbchd.com
Dr. Alonso said cluster studies like this one, while unnerving, are fairly common around the country and that it always takes time to determine any direct links or causes. “We’re trying to get this done as quickly as possible. We understand your need,” she said.
A number of residents have provided information on their medical history, and state epidemiologists are now focusing on cancers of the brain and central nervous system. The Florida Cancer Data System, which has accumulated cancer diagnosis and other information since 1981, is being reviewed in conjunction with the personal data supplied to reference any and all cancers found in Acreage zip codes. Once this information is accumulated, it is cross referenced and will be reviewed by the some of the best people in the field including the CDC.
Following the Q & A with Dr. Alonso, Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson, who serves as senior counsel for the newly designated Public Integrity Unit, provided an update on recommendations in a 54-page grand jury presentment on Palm Beach County governance and public corruption issues. The report focuses on bond underwriting, land transactions, discretionary funds, ethics, training of public servants, and whether an independent inspector general’s office should be established. The report can be viewed at: http://www.sa15.state.fl.us/GeneralInformation/GrandJuryReports.htm
Director of Emergency Management Chuck Tear and Assistant Operations Manager Mary Blakeney then gave a PowerPoint presentation on hurricane preparations, and Assistant County Administrator Brad Merriman provided an update on the budget process, which will wrap up with two public hearings in September.
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