|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 20, 2007
Mayor Bloomberg and HHC President Aviles Announce Expansion of World Trade Center Environmental Health Center to Two New Sites and Call for Sustained Federal Funding
Fire Department Releases Comprehensive Assessment of Six Years of Research and Treatment of 9/11 First Responders
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) President Alan Aviles today announced that the World Trade Center (WTC) Environmental Health Center at Bellevue Hospital, the City-funded program offering free, high quality health services to people experiencing health problems as a result of 9/11, is expanding to two additional locations. The new sites, at Gouverneur Healthcare Services in Lower Manhattan and Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, will allow the WTC Environmental Health Center to treat up to 20,000 patients over the next five years. Expanding the Bellevue Hospital program was one of the key recommendations made in Addressing the Health Impacts of 9/11, the report and recommendations Mayor Bloomberg accepted in February. Another key recommendation made in the report, an effort led by Deputy Mayor Linda I. Gibbs and Deputy Mayor Edward Skyler, was to aggressively seek federal funding to sustain the WTC program at Bellevue and two other 9/11 Health Centers of Excellence, and expand 9/11-related mental health services and medical research. The Mayor continued his call for federal funding at today’s announcement and together with Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta launched a new six-year assessment, World Trade Center Health Impacts on 9/11 Rescue Workers. The Mayor, President Aviles and Commissioner Scoppetta were joined at the announcement by New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and HHC Medical Director of WTC Services Dr. Joan Reibman.
"The City is stepping up to the plate to make sure that everyone gets the health care they need – despite this clearly being a national responsibility," said Mayor Bloomberg. "There is much about World Trade Center health effects that we still don’t know, but one thing we do know is that 9/11 was an act of war against our entire country and the federal government must take responsibility for everyone whose health was harmed and pass the James Zadroga Act. I met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the attacks, and she stated her support for addressing these urgent and unmet health needs."
Expansion of WTC Environmental Health Center
The WTC Environmental Health Center has now expanded from its original site at Bellevue Hospital in Midtown Manhattan to two new locations: Gouverneur Healthcare Services in Lower Manhattan and Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens. Under the direction of the program at Bellevue, the two new sites will treat those experiencing health problems as a result of exposure to dust and smoke from the WTC attack. The expanded WTC Environmental Health Center is a resource for all New Yorkers and others affected by 9/11 related health conditions, regardless of insurance or immigration status. The Center was established in 2006; though Bellevue has been treating WTC-affected patients since the 9/11 attacks.
"We’ve come to understand that while the passage of time does heal wounds, it also reveals them," said HHC President Aviles. "The City’s commitment of nearly $50 million will allow us to expand the WTC Environmental Health Center at Bellevue Hospital Center, to Gouverneur Healthcare Services in Lower Manhattan, and Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens. The Center’s three sites will allow us to bring comprehensive assessment and specialty treatment to the people with symptoms from WTC exposures who have not yet accessed care. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the other WTC Centers of Excellence and our many community-based partners."
The Center works in close partnership with community organizations, labor groups and residents affected by 9/11. The program is designed for people who:
- Lived in Lower Manhattan and areas of Brooklyn
- Went to school in the area
- Worked in or around area offices, stores, schools, or apartment buildings
- Helped in the clean-up of buildings in the affected area
Evaluation, comprehensive medical treatment and most medications for WTC-related illnesses are provided at no cost to those who qualify. The WTC Environmental Health Center staff make referrals to other clinical services for any medical needs identified but not related to WTC exposure. To date, most of the health problems have been related to respiratory issues, including sinus, nasal and postnasal irritation. In addition, shortness of breath, asthma, wheezing, persistent coughing, and throat irritation have also been reported. Non-respiratory symptoms include heartburn, indigestion, or reflux, severe headaches, skin rash or irritation, anxiety and nervousness.
The City provided HHC with $16 million to set up the WTC Environmental Health Center at Bellevue Hospital in 2006. Since then, the number of patients enrolled for treatment at Bellevue has nearly tripled, from 600 to 1,600. In anticipation of federal funds, the City of New York has committed an additional $33 million to further expand treatment access at the three sites and serve up to 20,000 patients over the next five years. The American Red Cross Liberty Disaster Relief Fund, the New York Times Neediest Fund, the New York Community Trust and the Robin Hood 9/11 fund have also provided financial support for the program. The Mayor has committed over $100 million in City funding for 9/11 health through 2011.
"Our nation has a moral obligation to extend health monitoring to everyone exposed to Ground Zero toxins and treatment to anyone who’s sick, whether they’re a first responder, a Lower Manhattan resident, an area worker, or a student at a nearby school," said Representative Carolyn Maloney. "I am incredibly grateful for Mayor Bloomberg’s leadership in creating and expanding the World Trade Center Program, which has been a crucial source of help for thousands of New Yorkers who were sickened or injured by the terrorist attacks on our country."
"Following the tragic events of September 11th, people from all over New York bravely aided in the recovery and clean up efforts at the site, including many Queens residents," said Representative Joseph Crowley. "Sadly, many of these selfless individuals are now experiencing health problems as a result of their service to the nation. Today, thanks to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the WTC Program will be expanded to include Elmhurst Hospital. This common sense decision will allow Queens residents who are suffering to receive care locally rather than having to travel to Manhattan."
"This initiative will allow the City to expand its services to provide comprehensive physical and mental health treatment to all individuals with suspected WTC-related health problems," said Representative Vito Fossella. "The City has stepped up to the plate to offer these critical services as we continue to fight in Washington to ensure that anyone who was exposed to the toxic air of Ground Zero has access to the care they need. We unveiled new federal legislation last week that goes further than any effort to date by expanding monitoring and treatment to all who were exposed and also reopens the Victims Compensation Fund. I applaud Mayor Bloomberg for his commitment to the unsung heroes of 9/11 and for expanding an important resource for New York City residents."
"I am pleased that Bellevue is expanding its monitoring and treatment program to serve more residents, clean-up workers, and others who have become sick as a result of the World Trade Center collapse," said Representative Jerrold Nadler. "Whether you were caught in the plume, cleaned up poisonous indoor dust, or were exposed to contamination in your home or workplace - if you were exposed to toxins from the World Trade Center, you should have access to quality care. I applaud Mayor Bloomberg’s commitment to health care for all the affected communities, and I thank him for his support of the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act that we introduced earlier this week."
Members of the public who wish to find out if they are eligible for services from the WTC Environmental Health Center should call 311. After being referred to one of the three sites, individuals will be able to speak with a professional in English or other languages.
The James Zadroga Act
At the announcement, the Mayor called on Congress to pass the James Zadroga Act, supported by Representatives Maloney, Nadler and Fossella. The bill is named after an NYPD detective who had spent hundreds of hours at Ground Zero, and later died at the age of 34 from respiratory failure. If adopted into law, it would provide the federal funding needed to care for those who are sick, or who may become sick. The bill would also continue research that will help to better understand the health impacts of the attacks, and it would re-open the Victim’s Compensation Fund to better help those who continue to struggle with the aftermath of 9/11. On Tuesday, Deputy Mayor Skyler testified before the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Health Subcommittee in support of the Zadroga Act.
"The James Zadroga Act reopens the Victim Compensation Fund, a key recommendation of the 9/11 Health Panel," said Mayor Bloomberg. "That Fund was a fair and efficient process that provided a measure of relief to victims’ families, now it is imperative that the Fund be reauthorized to take care of those who were not eligible to benefit from it before it closed in December, 2003. The fact that their injuries and illnesses have been slower to emerge should not disqualify them from getting the help they need."
The bill would provide funding for the WTC Environmental Health Center at Bellevue Hospital, including the two expansion sites announced today. The bill would also provide sustained support for the two other Centers of Excellence that are treating those impacted by 9/11, the FDNY World Trade Center program and the WTC Monitoring and Treatment program coordinated by Mt. Sinai.
FDNY Releases Six-Year Assessment on the Health Impacts of 9/11 on FDNY Rescue Workers
The Mayor and Fire Commissioner Scoppetta also released a comprehensive six-year assessment of the physical and psychological effects on active and retired FDNY members who responded to the World Trade Center site on and after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The 64-page report is based upon the widely recognized work of the FDNY Bureau of Health Services, which has evaluated, monitored and treated more than 14,200 firefighters and EMS members since the days following the attacks. Led by Chief Medical Officers Dr. Kerry Kelly and Dr. David Prezant, the Fire Department’s World Trade Center Medical Monitoring Program has become a national model in treating first responders and identifying the overall impact of 9/11.
"These statistics are heartbreaking – and truly underscore the sacrifice and selflessness that the FDNY distributed in the days and months after the attacks," said Mayor Bloomberg. "They also underline the need for continued funding to assess the overall health impact on our rescue workers."
"This new report is a testament to the unparalleled heroism of the New York City Fire Department, and the physical and emotional toll so many of our firefighters and EMS members have had to endure," said Commissioner Scoppetta. "The hard work and dedication of our Bureau of Health Services should be commended, and their findings should serve as a solid foundation for all 9/11 treatment programs in the years to come."
The report’s findings stem from the analysis of thousands of questionnaires, medical examinations and other critical data, which show that the health impact of the World Trade Center site can be linked to the arrival time of FDNY members. Effects ranged from eye and skin irritation to respiratory symptoms to concerns about individual mortality. The data also suggests that continued monitoring and treatment have helped to alleviate many of these symptoms.
Among the chief findings of the report are:
- Earlier arrival times (especially within the first 48 hours) at the World Trade Center site are associated with the highest incidence rate for respiratory symptoms. More than 79% of those present on the morning of 9/11 had at least one lower respiratory symptom, such as daily cough, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest pain.
- There was an unprecedented decline in lung function among members in the first 12 months after 9/11.
- After 9/11, the number of new FDNY sarcoidosis cases increased, with 13 cases developed among members in the first year. Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in multiple organs, such as the lungs and skin, all of which are entry points for occupational and environmental agents.
- The number of firefighters and fire officers who collect disability pensions for lung problems has increased since 9/11 – with an average of 146 members retiring annually since 2001.
- Prior to 9/11, an average of 49 firefighters and fire officers collected disability pensions for lung problems annually. The increase is strongly tied to the respiratory symptoms related to the World Trade Center site and the loss of pulmonary function.
The full report is available on www.nyc.gov.
On September 4th, the Fire Department announced the expansion of its 9/11-related treatment for active and retired FDNY members by offering both physical and mental health services at four satellite offices closer to where most participants live. The sites in Staten Island, Fort Totten in Queens, Brentwood in Suffolk County and Middletown in Orange County have been used as FDNY counseling centers since 9/11 and now will make it easier for thousands of rescue workers to receive the appropriate care.
Addressing the Health Impacts of 9/11
The City has completed, or made significant progress on, all 15 of the recommendations made in Addressing the Health Impacts of 9/11. The Mayor completed another recommendation last week when he announced the launch of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s new World Trade Center health website. The comprehensive website, accessible at www.nyc.gov, offers one-stop shopping for 9/11 health-related issues. Other examples of completed recommendations are the naming of the WTC Medical Working Group, a group of scientists and medical experts who review the latest science and its applicability to different populations, and the appointment of a World Trade Center Health Coordinator to organize this information and help convey it to the public.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s comprehensive tracking effort – the World Trade Center Health Registry – continues to monitor the long-term health of people who were exposed to the World Trade Center disaster. Registrants now reside in all 50 states. The Registry recently released critical findings about rescue and recovery workers, some of whom were suffering from asthma and post-traumatic disorder as a result of the disaster. The Health Department is now re-surveying all 71,000 registrants to learn more about their current health status. So far, nearly 60% of registrants have responded.