NEW YORK CITY - Monday, April 21, 2008 - The Health Department today announced a new mental health benefit program for people still experiencing psychological distress or struggling with substance use as a result of the events of September 11, 2001. To ensure that all needs are met, the Health Department will reimburse out-of-pocket costs for mental health or substance-use treatment through a claims process similar to any insurance benefit. New York City residents and city workers in surrounding areas can find out if they are eligible by calling 311 or visiting nyc.gov/9-11mentalhealth.
“September 11th was very traumatic for people,” said Dr. David Rosin, Executive Deputy Commissioner for Mental Hygiene at the Health Department. “Cost concerns shouldn’t deter those still struggling from getting the care and treatment they need to overcome depression, anxiety, or dependence on alcohol or drugs associated with the attacks. If you’re receiving eligible services and don’t have other coverage, we can help.”
The new benefit covers out-of-pocket costs for outpatient mental health and substance-use services, as well as medication, laboratory work and psychological evaluations. A similar reimbursement program was offered by the American Red Cross to some people affected by the September 11th attacks who enrolled before the end of 2006. The Health Department is making the benefit program retroactive to January 2, 2007, to provide continuity of coverage. The agency is also expanding eligibility beyond certain target groups to include any New York City resident who suffers from 9/11-related psychological distress, verified by a licensed provider. Outreach and enrollment will be managed by the Mental Health Association of New York City, a private, not-for-profit organization that works to change attitudes about mental illnesses.
What We Know About the Mental Health Effects of 9/11
Research shows that many people suffered serious psychological distress following the terrorist attacks. In a survey of Lower Manhattan residents conducted shortly after 9/11, the Health Department found that two out of five adults had stress symptoms indicating a need for further mental health evaluation and a potential for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Almost 40 percent of this population received some type of supportive counseling. A similar proportion expressed a need for further help.
The symptoms have persisted for some people, causing long-term disability. Research findings from the World Trade Center Health Registry indicate that two to three years after the attacks:
- Rescue and recover workers experienced PTSD symptoms at three times the rate of the general population. Even higher rates were found among workers who lacked prior training or experience in responding to disasters.
- Lower Manhattan residents who were present during the attacks, or had to evacuate their homes afterward, experienced PTSD symptoms at up to three times the rate of other residents in the same area.
- About 11 percent of adult survivors of collapsed or damaged buildings suffered serious psychological distress. Survivors were more likely to report depression, anxiety or other emotional problems if they had been caught in the dust cloud surrounding the World Trade Center.
PTSD may increase the risk of depression and substance use. Neither problem has shown a persistent citywide increase since 9/11, but there has been little research on whether those directly affected by the attacks may be experiencing these conditions.
Accessing Mental Health Services
Apart from the new reimbursement benefit, New York City maintains three World Trade Center (WTC) Centers of Excellence that offer free, integrated physical and mental health care to eligible individuals affected by the collapse of the World Trade Center:
- The WTC Environmental Health Center provides services at Bellevue Hospital Center and Gouverneur Healthcare Services (both in Manhattan) and at Elmhurst Hospital Center (Queens)
- The Mount Sinai Consortium provides services through the WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program
- The Fire Department of New York also participates in the WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program
New Yorkers seeking a mental health service provider to assess their condition or provide therapy can call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/9-11mentalhealth.