The SBU program has cared for thousands of 9/11 first responders, including firefighters, police and other workers, many of whom continue to suffer from health issues related to their work at ground zero. The NIOSH funding will support these programs through mid-July 2009.
“We continue to see the need to care for and monitor these patients, as conditions such as respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases and post-traumatic stress disorder are common, sometimes chronic, and require long-term monitoring by healthcare professionals,” said Benjamin J. Luft, M.D., director of the SBUMC program. “Furthermore, we are concerned about the development of new illnesses such as cancer and autoimmune disease, which may have resulted from the intense exposure to dust and toxins.”
Luft explained the new funding will help the mission of the program, which is to treat the many conditions and diseases experienced by first responders and prevent other health problems. The program is equipped to help patients with specialists in areas such as pulmonology, psychiatry, radiology, orthopedics, neurology, gastroenterology, radiology and neurology.
“We offer a unique program that addresses the medical and psychosocial needs of our patients in an integrative manner,” added Luft. “All of our healthcare providers receive special training to meet the myriad of problems that these patients are confronting.”
Luft said the program will build on its various treatment programs, such as medical, psychiatric care and social work, as well as research analyzing data on the types of physical and mental difficulties experienced by first responders in the seven years since the attacks. In addition, new clinical locations are planned for other areas in Suffolk and Nassau County.
The Long Island World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program, based in Islandia, N.Y., is the only comprehensive and specialty care program on Long Island that meets the physical and mental needs of first responders. The Program was established immediately after the 9/11 attacks.
Although the Program initially was voluntary, it has received continuous support by numerous state, federal, and private (American Red Cross) agencies. Federal funding during fiscal 2008 reached approximately $6.5 million. Total NIOSH funding, including the fiscal 2009 grant, will reach approximately $21 million over the entire period.