Layla ambassadors Reese Smith and Ashley Homer, both of Syracuse, facilitate discussion about the lead paint problem in Syracuse. Left, Peter Polikarpenko, and Don Johnson, right, both of Syracuse, participate. Credit: Michelle Gabel | Central Current

Syracuse community members voted to give $150,000 to a collaboration of doula care groups to help fight the city’s lead crisis.

The vote came after about eight months of community meetings run by the Central New York Community Foundation as part of a participatory budgeting experiment.

Over the eight months, more than 150 people attended meetings to identify potential barriers to testing for lead poisoning and solutions to the lack of testing.

More than 480 community members voted on four projects that were developed from community feedback.

“I think it’s definitely something we should try at a governmental level,” said Qiana Williams, program officer at the Community Foundation who ran the community meetings. “Now that we’ve kind of laid some of the groundwork, it would help to build that trust, it would help to pull in residents and hear their voices. We have to really listen.”

The doula care collaboration includes the following groups:

  • Village Birth International
  • Sankofa Reproductive Health & Healing Center
  • Doula 4 a Queen
  • zenG Wellness
  • Cafe Sankofa

Together, the groups will attempt to reach about 250 to 300 families and train an additional four to five doulas. They already have six doulas.

Doulas provide support to families of pregnant people throughout a pregnancy.

The groups committed to:

  • Including lead poisoning awareness and prevention in education classes and postpartum support groups.
  • Expanding Sankofa’s postpartum services to include at least the first year of life for lead awareness, testing and follow-up for all children and siblings, ages 1 to 5, in families that work with the group.
  • Training three to four additional community-based doulas for lead awareness from communities most affected by lead poisoning and exposure.
  • Coordinating testing for lead poisoning with the Onondaga County Health Department once per month.
  • Offering ongoing education, support and referrals to doctors for families who have children with high blood-lead levels.

The group expects to begin recruiting more doulas and hopes to have the programming up and running by early this summer, Williams said.

read more about Syracuse’s lead crisis

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Chris Libonati

Chris Libonati covers government, accountability and equity. Have a tip? Contact Chris at 585-290-0718 or