Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the City's progress in responding to the health impacts that resulted from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Mayor also released a new report highlighting the latest medical research on 9/11 health and launched a citywide campaign to promote awareness of medical and mental health treatment options for those suffering from the effects of 9/11. Over the past year, all 15 of the recommendations made to the Mayor in the 2007 report Addressing the Health Impacts of 9/11 have either been completed or are underway. The Mayor was joined at the announcement by Deputy Mayors Linda Gibbs and Edward Skyler who led the City's investigation of the health effects of 9/11; Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden; President of the Health and Hospitals Corporation Alan D. Aviles; Dr. Joan Reibman of the WTC Environmental Health Center; World Trade Center Health Coordinator Jeffrey Hon; and 9/11 health advocates and community-based organizations.
"We have answered the call for help from those who have suffered health problems as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack," said Mayor Bloomberg. "We're helping people heal, both physically and emotionally, and we will continue to reach out to those in need. Seven years after the attack, greater federal support is still crucial to sustaining the research and treatment that we have started. We will keep fighting for the support these critically important programs deserve."
"The World Trade Center Medical Working Group Report represents remarkable consensus among scientists, doctors, and experts on what the research tells us about 9/11 health problems," said Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs. "Our objective review will inform the City's ongoing commitment to targeting resources and research where they are needed and ensure that those affected receive the treatment they deserve."
"The City has not waited to get treatment to those who are sick because of the 9/11 attacks, but the federal government must make the long-term investments necessary to ensure that we can continue to conduct vital research and treat those who are sick or who could become sick," said Deputy Mayor Edward Skyler. "To accomplish that, Congress must pass the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2008."
The City has committed $100 million in funds over five years for the 9/11-related health agenda. All 15 of the recommendations laid out in Addressing the Health Impacts of 9/11 (in PDF ), available at www.nyc.gov have been completed or are underway, including:
- Expanding treatment services at Bellevue Hospital, Elmhurst Hospital Center and Gouverneur Healthcare Services, where more than 2,800 New Yorkers have been treated to date for 9/11-related problems;
- Enrolling more than 1,000 New Yorkers in a new financial reimbursement program for people receiving 9/11-related mental health services;
- Launching a comprehensive website for 9/11 health information and service listings. The site has had more than 300,000 visits to date; and
- Disseminating 9/11 medical treatment guidelines to 40,000 health professionals, and sending health information regularly to more than 5,000 residents and City employees.
The City has also advocated vigorously for federal funding to monitor and treat people with 9/11-related mental and physical health problems, as the panel recommended. The Mayor today reported progress on several fronts toward securing needed federal support. Recent steps include:
- Securing more than $108 million from Congress for fiscal year 2008-including first time funding for community members and area workers suffering from 9/11 health problems. This was gained with crucial support from members of the New York delegation, labor leaders, members of the community, and local health and environmental organizations. City actions also prompted the release of $30 million of these funds from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide services for residents, workers and students. HHC's WTC Center of Excellence has applied for these funds.
- Advocating for passage of the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2008, which would provide a consistent funding stream for 9/11-related treatment and the re-opening of the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund.
Report from the WTC Medical Working Group
The WTC Medical Working group comprises researchers and physicians tasked with assessing New York City's 9/11-related health needs and articulating the measures needed to meet them. Chaired by Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and Dr. Tom Frieden, the group reviewed more than 100 scientific articles published since 2001 and found that thousands have been treated for physical and mental health problems, and that a wide range of exposed individuals, including rescue and recovery workers, residents of Lower Manhattan, and area workers continue to experience illnesses related to 9/11 exposure. Today's report, the group's first, includes the following key findings:
- In the aftermath of 9/11, respiratory symptoms were common among people who breathed in the dust, smoke and fumes released by the collapse of the World Trade Center.
- Respiratory symptoms have subsided over time for many, but have persisted for some including firefighters, 25 percent of whom had symptoms two to four years after the event. Lung function has also declined among some workers.
- In surveys conducted two to three years after 9/11, rescue and recovery workers, Lower Manhattan residents and area workers developed new cases of asthma at two to three times the expected rate.
- Studies on cancer risk or increased risk of death are underway, but the results are not yet available because of long latency periods of many potentially fatal diseases.
- Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were common during the first six months after 9/11. They resolved quickly for most people, yet two to three years after the event, rescue workers and area residents still had elevated rates of PTSD.
- Depression and substance use have not been fully evaluated among those most heavily affected, but these problems have not increased in the general New York City population since 9/11.
"Help is available for people still suffering," said Dr. Frieden. "Any New Yorker can call 311 or visit the 9/11 health website at www.nyc.gov to find information about treatment for a physical ailment or a mental health problem. Both PTSD and respiratory conditions are still common among those directly exposed. Treatment can help, so please seek care if you're suffering."
Besides evaluating progress, the new report calls for further action on several fronts. It calls on the City to:
- Continue to advocate for long-term federal funding for treatment and monitoring.
- Expand research on the prevalence of WTC-related conditions and determine their persistence.
- Document WTC-related treatment needs and effectiveness.
- Determine whether cancer, chronic illnesses and other late-emerging diseases are elevated in comparison to expected New York City levels.
- Raise awareness of WTC-related symptoms, and the availability of clinical resources.
New Campaign to Promote Treatment Services
With the last goal in mind, the Mayor and HHC President Aviles announced a new $5 million citywide advertising and grass roots marketing campaign, which debuts on subways, print, radio, and television next week. The campaign is designed to reach a broad group of individuals exposed to the attacks, beyond first responders, and urges the public to seek care for 9/11-related health problems with its tagline: Lived There? Worked There? You Deserve Care. Ads for the campaign can be accessed at www.nyc.gov.
Using composites of real patients - a clean-up worker, a commuter, a local businessman, an office worker, a student, a child - the ads highlight various common physical and emotional symptoms that may be related to 9/11 and target adults and children who may not have linked their symptoms to 9/11 exposure, or who do not know that treatment is available. The ads, which will run in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Polish were developed in close conjunction with community members and 9/11 health advocates. The campaign directs New Yorkers to the WTC Environmental Health Center or to dial 311 for help.
As part of the campaign, 10 community based and other organizations have received grants to conduct grass roots outreach to hard-to-reach groups, host educational forums, conduct health fairs, and provide patient navigation services to improve access to care. The following groups received up to two year grants that together total $2.1 million: Beyond Ground Zero (BGZ) Network; Henry Street Settlement; Lin Sing Association; United Jewish Council; Ecuadorian International Center, Inc.; Communications Workers of America; DC 37 Safety & Health; NY Committee for Occupational Safety & Health (NYCOSH); 9/11 Environmental Action; and the Office of Staff Analysts.
"Many New Yorkers are suffering from wheezing, shortness of breath, stomach and other medical or emotional problems related to their 9/11 exposure and its aftermath. Yet too many don't connect their continuing health problems to 9/11 or believe that help is only available to WTC rescue and recovery workers," said HHC President Alan D. Aviles. "This awareness campaign - devised collaboratively with concerned community organizations - has been designed to get people to the health care they need. We hope it will resonate deeply with those potentially affected - families who lived and stayed in their downtown homes, young people who went to school in the area, local business owners who kept their shops open, local office workers who commute from many parts of the city and the region, clean-up workers who cleared dust from nearby offices, and those who still struggle with the psychological and emotional trauma of losing a loved one or witnessing the horrific devastation."
FOR MAYOR'S 9/11 HEALTH PANEL RECOMMENDATIONS
FIFTEEN RECOMMENDATIONS COMPLETED OR UNDERWAY
- RECOMMENDATION: Appoint a medical working group to review existing and emerging scientific findings on 9/11 health
- Sixteen physicians and researchers, including representatives from the WTC Centers of Excellence, academic experts and government leaders were appointed in June 2007
- First annual report on state of 9/11 health was released September 2008
- RECOMMENDATION: Advocate for federal resources to monitor and treat people with World Trade Center (WTC)-related mental and physical health problems
- Mayor Bloomberg has urged federal officials, including Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, and Michael Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, to provide federal funding for 9/11 health treatment programs in New York City
- Mayor Bloomberg and other New York City officials have testified before Congress several times about the need to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act
- New York City officials have worked closely with members of the New York Congressional delegation, federal officials, labor and members of the community to secure funding for 9/11 health treatment and research
- RECOMMENDATION: Advocate for the reopening of the Victim Compensation Fund authorized by Congress in 2001
ACTION: Mayor Bloomberg, Michael C. Cardozo, New York City Corporation Counsel, and other New York City officials have testified before Congress and briefed editorial boards on the need to compensate individuals with serious 9/11 health problems without holding the City liable for these problems
- RECOMMENDATION: Appoint a WTC Health Coordinator to foster 9/11 health communication and outreach
ACTION: Position was filled in June 2007and Coordinator has assisted in the implementation of panel recommendations
- RECOMMENDATION: Establish a comprehensive 9/11 health website to provide information about research and services
ACTION: "One-stop shop" website was launched in September 2007 and has received nearly 300,000 visits to date (www.nyc.gov/9-11HealthInfo)
- RECOMMENDATION: Expand the distribution of Clinical Guidelines for Adults Exposed to the WTC Disaster for use by physicians
- Guidelines were revised in June 2008 and distributed to 40,000 health professionals in the New York City area, 200 college health clinics in the Northeast and are accessible at www.nyc.gov/9-11HealthInfo
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health promoted use of guidelines to state health departments in all 50 states
- RECOMMENDATION: Expand and promote the services offered by the WTC Environmental Health Center at Bellevue Hospital Center
- Treatment sites were expanded to Gouverneur Healthcare Services and Elmhurst Hospital Center in September 2007
- More than 2,800 Lower Manhattan residents, area office workers and students have been treated to date
- Pediatric treatment services are now available at Bellevue Hospital Center
- Multilingual outreach and advertising campaigns were initiated in 2008
- RECOMMENDATION: Offer financial assistance for 9/11-related mental health and substance use treatment services to all New Yorkers in need
ACTION: More than 1,000 people have enrolled in the New York City Benefit Program for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services since April 2008
- RECOMMENDATION: Expand outreach to 9/11 affected communities about construction and deconstruction projects that could pose environmental hazards
- Notify NYC offers Lower Manhattan residents advisories about neighborhood disruptions via e-mail and cell phone
- Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center has convened monthly community meetings with construction project sponsors, contractors, City agencies and consultants
- RECOMMENDATION: Review the environmental, health and safety aspects of the City's disaster response plans
ACTION: The City is developing a response capacity within the Department of Health and enhancing the response capacity of the Department of Environmental Protection to ensure that environmental dangers-such as asbestos and other hazards-are quickly and comprehensively addressed during any emergency. In addition, DOHMH and DEP are currently working with OEM to strengthen the City's response protocols to environmental hazards, including the use of the proper protective equipment, if necessary, by first responders and other workers at the scene of the emergency and the implementation of any necessary protective actions for community residents
- RECOMMENDATION: Appoint WTC Health Liaisons at City agencies to track and disseminate information about 9/11 health issues
- WTC Liaisons from 20 agencies and 3 pension boards have met quarterly with the WTC Health Coordinator and toured both the Bellevue and FDNY Centers of Excellence
- WTC Liaisons distributed 150,000 postcards informing City employees about the 9/11 health website
- RECOMMENDATION: Provide 9/11-related health information to City employees who participated in WTC rescue, recovery and clean-up operations
ACTION: 9/11 Health E-News is distributed monthly to more than 5,000 members of the public and City employees
- RECOMMENDATION: Offer excused absences to City employees who wish to make appointments to be screened or treated for the first time at the WTC Centers of Excellence if they are eligible for services
ACTION: Since the WTC excused absence policy was implemented in December 2007, more than 50 employees have scheduled appointments at the Centers of Excellence
- RECOMMENDATION: Encourage City employees with 9/11-related mental health and substance use needs to enroll in treatment programs
- The 9/11 health website includes information about more than 20 local mental health and substance use programs
- A 9/11 Resource Guide has been printed for distribution by WTC Health Liaisons to City employees without internet access
- RECOMMENDATION: Encourage City employees who participated in WTC rescue, recovery and clean-up operations to register with the New York State Workers' Compensation Board and to file WTC Notices of Participation with their retirement systems
ACTION: The 9/11 health website and e-newsletters prominently feature the registration deadlines and announce changes in the law governing these benefits