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LOCKPORT – The Niagara County Health Department’s Healthy Neighborhoods Program, which has won awards for effectiveness, will be shut down April 25 because of a loss of state funding.

Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton said Friday that layoff notices have been given to the program’s three employees.

The program, which first received a state grant in 1997, missed out on its request for renewal of funding this year. The county had applied for a five-year grant of nearly $200,000 a year. But other counties, some of whom have never received healthy neighborhoods funding, jumped into the money battle this year.

“We didn’t score high enough on our grant application to see it renewed,” Stapleton said. “We were number 21 on the list and they funded 20. The competition for state grants, any grants, is more competitive than ever. They don’t look at what you’ve done in the past. They look at your proposal.”

He said the county had not changed its plans for the program, which involved workers going door-to-door in the county’s poorest neighborhoods, primarily in Niagara Falls, to check for unhealthy situations.

The three workers – two public health technicians and one public health educator – entered homes looking for lead paint, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, and a variety of other hazardous conditions.

“We’ve actually saved lives. We go in the house and turn on the machine, and the CO detector goes through the roof,” Stapleton said.

The county had been planning to expand the program into the cities of Lockport and North Tonawanda as well as mobile home parks in the Town of Lockport. In the past, Healthy Neighborhoods did some work in Olcott, which also has one of the county’s highest poverty rates.

This year’s application called for work on injury prevention, anti-rabies efforts and rodent control, as well as lead paint and smoke and CO detection.

Legislator W. Keith McNall, chairman of the County Legislature’s Community Services Committee and a member of the Board of Health, said the end of the program is a significant loss to the county.

“It’s been an excellent program for many years,” said McNall, R-Lockport.

The laid-off workers “knew their jobs were dependent on the grant,” McNall added.

Stapleton said the entire program was not state-mandated. The County Legislature has directed the sale or shutdown of most of the Health Department’s nonmandated programs in recent years.

However, the department will be able to do some work in the areas of lead paint and poison prevention through other funding sources, Stapleton said.

In 2011, the Healthy Neighborhoods Program won a national award from the Environmental Protection Agency for asthma management.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com