Sandy* was a second-grader in the Bronx when the Twin Towers fell. Her father was a first responder, and she didn't hear from him until very late that day. The family was reunited, but the horror of that day has stayed with Sandy, and she continues to be deeply troubled with nightmares and anxiety about her family's safety.
Nick* was in first grade at a school near the World Trade Center. He and his sister were taken away from the area before the dust cloud enveloped it, but their home in southern Manhattan was inundated with dust that was hard to clean up. One month later he developed asthma.
According to several studies, children exposed to the events of 9/11, even those not directly affected, suffered chronic nightmares, anxiety and other behavioral health problems. Children living in areas enveloped by the WTC dust cloud also have higher rates of asthma and persistent cough.
"The impact of 9/11 is still being seen, and we know that children manifest symptoms differently than adults," said Dr. Kathryn Kavanaugh, WTC Environmental Health Center Clinical Psychologist. "It is our job as health professionals to meet the unique needs of children affected by the events of that day, and our program is specifically designed to do this."
HHC's Pediatric Program at the WTC Environmental Health Center is the only program in New York City dedicated to treating WTC-related health conditions among children. Children receive specialized services including pediatrics, child psychology, pulmonology and creative arts therapy.
The program is available at no cost to children or adolescents who lived in Lower Manhattan or areas of Brooklyn or were students in the area. The Center also treats children whose mothers were pregnant and had direct 9/11 exposure, and those whose family members had direct 9/11 exposure, including children of rescue and clean-up workers. Services are available regardless of insurance or immigration status.
Children and teens who come to the Center receive an initial assessment including a full medical evaluation and examination, diagnostic tests to identify potential WTC-related symptoms and a mental health screening. After the initial evaluation, specialists from several disciplines develop a treatment plan to address WTC-related conditions.
"There were babies, young children and adolescents who were either exposed to the dust and fumes of the WTC disaster or to the related tragic events through the loss or involvement of family. They may now be experiencing persistent and worsening cough, asthma, persistent sadness, irritability or behavior problems that may stem from 9/11," said HHC President Alan Aviles. "We encourage parents who think their child or teen may be sick from 9/11 events to reach out to us for help."
Families who wish to find out if they or their children are eligible for services from the WTC Environmental Health Center should call 311 or toll free at (877) WTC-0107 / (877) 982-0107. Callers can speak with someone in English or any other preferred language. Information is also available on the web at nyc.gov/hhc.
* Not their real names.