Day laborers who cleaned up at the WTC pile, Lower Manhattan residents, students, workers from nearby offices and buildings and others with health conditions related to 9/11 now have expanded access to specialized care.
The World Trade Center Environmental Health Center at Bellevue Hospital is a Center of Excellence designed to treat all people who are experiencing health problems as a result of exposure to dust and smoke from the WTC attack. Under the medical leadership of Dr. Joan Reibman, the program is expanding to additional locations at Gouverneur Healthcare Services in Lower Manhattan and Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.
The Bellevue Center site has already experienced an expansion and has served some 1,600 patients since the original $16 million allocated from the City of New York in 2006. In anticipation of federal funds, the City of New York has committed an additional $33 million to expand access, add staff at the Center's three sites, and serve up to 20,000 patients over the next five years. The new sites, currently staffed by expert physicians in pulmonary medicine, will continue to build capacity over the next few months to ensure Center of Excellence standards are available to patients seeking care at any of the three locations.
Unlike other programs that are limited to only screening and monitoring, or treatment for first responders and rescue workers, the Center is for any qualified person affected by health conditions related to 9/11, regardless of insurance or immigration status. Evaluation, continued treatment, and most medications for 9/11-related illnesses are provided at no cost to those who qualify.
The most widely reported health problems have been respiratory problems, including sinus, nasal and postnasal irritation. In addition, shortness of breath, asthma, wheezing, persistent coughing, and throat irritation has also been reported. Non-respiratory symptoms include heartburn, indigestion, or reflux, severe headaches, skin rash or irritation, and post traumatic stress syndrome.
The American Red Cross Liberty Disaster Relief Fund, the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, the New York Community Trust, and the Robin Hood Foundation 9/11 Relief Fund have also provided financial support.
To make an appointment, the public can call toll free at 1-877-WTC-0107. Individuals who do not speak English, or have trouble understanding English, will be able to speak with a healthcare provider in the language of their preference. For more information, visit HHC's web site at nyc.gov/hhc.