Health Care for Heroes in NYC

Oct. 21, 2002
Workers and volunteers at Ground Zero can receive free treatment for health problems related to the rescue, recovery and clean up through a new program offered by Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York and the Bear Stearns Charitable Foundation.

"It is our duty to do everything we can to ensure these heroes do not suffer ill health effects as a result of their selfless acts," said Kenneth Berns, MD, CEO and president of Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Workers and volunteers identified as having WTC-related health problems will be provided medical and mental health treatment through the Bear Stearns/Mount Sinai Health for Heroes Program, which is funded by a $1 million grant from the Bear Stearns Charitable Foundation. The program will be operated through the Mount Sinai Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine (COEM).

Among those eligible for free WTC-related medical care are workers and volunteers involved in rescue and recovery, restoration of essential services, and clean up/debris removal at either the World Trade Center site or the Staten Island landfill.

Mount Sinai had previously been awarded a federal grant to provide initial health screenings for an estimated 8,500 site workers and volunteers. While the federal grant was a critical step in addressing 9/11-related health problems, it did not provide for follow-up care. The grant from The Bear Stearns Charitable Foundation will help fill the void by providing comprehensive medical care.

"This is a critical piece that was missing," said Stephen Levin, MD, co-director of the Mount Sinai COEM and the WTC Medical Screening Program. "The screening portion of the program is important. But now, those people who need more help will be able to get it."

Robin Herbert, MD, co-director of the Mount Sinai COEM and the WTC Medical Screening Program said Mt. Sinai estmates more than one-third of the 8,500 screened workers will be diagnosed with respiratory problems and that about a quarter will need follow up for mental health problems. "Because the conditions we are diagnosing among first responders often become chronic if not treated promptly, it is critical to begin comprehensive treatment immediately upon diagnosis. We can now take that vital step," added Herbert.

The $1 million grant from the Bear Stearns Charitable Foundation will help fund, for a one-year period, a multidisciplinary team of occupational medicine specialists, including two physicians, one nurse and one patient-care assistant. Mount Sinai also will use the funds to hire a psychiatrist to treat patients found to be experiencing mental health problems and a social worker to manage other patient issues.

"With the cleanup at Ground Zero now complete, it is time to focus on the needs of those men and women who risked their personal well-being to serve this city in its time of greatest need," said Bear Stearns Chairman and CEO James E. Cayne.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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