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Most of us remember exactly where we were and what we were doing on Sept. 11, 2001. But while the tragedy unfolded on our TV screens, many experienced it firsthand. Responders and survivors of the attack are still dealing with the effects of that day — both physically and emotionally.

Nearly 50,000 people have at least one medical condition related to the 9/11 attacks. The most common of nearly 100 documented conditions are respiratory diseases, gastroesophageal reflux disease and cancers.1

These ongoing health issues need continued support. Established by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 and its reauthorization in 2015, the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program provides no-cost medical monitoring and treatment of conditions caused by 9/11 exposures to eligible responders and survivors through 2090.

These benefits are available for all eligible responders who performed rescue, recovery, cleanup and related support services at the World Trade Center and related sites in New York City; the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia; and the crash site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Also eligible are survivors who were present in the dust or dust cloud on 9/11 or who lived, worked, went to school, daycare or adult daycare in the New York City disaster area. 

“First responders are not just firefighters, EMTs or the NYPD, but anyone who responded at the site: volunteers who helped with the cleanup, truck drivers, Red Cross workers and even priests,” said Mark Shay, program manager at Logistics Health, Inc. (LHI), part of OptumServe.

LHI serves the WTC Health Program by administering a Nationwide Provider Network (NPN) and the William Street Clinic in Lower Manhattan.

The NPN provides care to members outside the New York metropolitan area. In fact, the NPN is currently serving members in all 50 states and provides initial screening, monitoring, certification, treatment, pharmacy and case management benefits to responders and survivors. More than 18,000 members receive care through the NPN.

The William Street Clinic is one of the program’s Clinical Centers of Excellence that provide initial health evaluations and care coordination within the New York metropolitan area for survivors. It has served more than 3,000 members.

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Treatment for a range of conditions

For those with health conditions related to their 9/11 exposure, annual physical exams, ongoing treatment and medications are available.

The collapse of the World Trade Center created clouds of toxic dust with chemicals like asbestos, diesel fuel and carbon monoxide. This exposure has been shown to cause a variety of physical health conditions including a decrease in pulmonary function.2

Lung diseases are among the most common condition treated through the LHI program, Shay said. “We’re seeing asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and interstitial lung disease. We also see people with gastrointestinal diseases like gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), musculoskeletal issues and acute traumatic injuries — from a piece of concrete falling on them, for instance.”

Mental health disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are also commonplace, Shay said, affecting about 22% of those certified for treatment.3

Beginning in 2012, a wide range of cancers also became eligible for program coverage, including melanoma, leukemia, lymphoma and cancers of the lung, prostate, breast, colon, liver and bladder.4 The WTC Health Program has continued to see a steady increase in survivor enrollment since adding cancer to the list of WTC-related conditions.

Making connections

LHI holds a series of town hall meetings around the country to meet with members of the program. Current members are encouraged to bring non-members who might also qualify for services. 

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  • Members enrolled in the WTC health program include general responders (57,420 members), FDNY responders (16,978 members) and 9/11 survivors (20,290 members).

    The most common conditions WTC program enrollees are treated for are chronic rhinosinusitis, GERD, asthma, cancer, sleep apnea and PTSD.

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The town hall meetings also connect program members with the case managers they may have talked with on the phone regularly but never met. Case managers make sure members get the care and moral support they need. “That relationship often becomes vital for healing,” Shay said.

“They get to know each other pretty well — many members have talked with their case managers on a weekly or monthly basis for years,” he said. “Just having a caring voice on the other end of the phone as they go through these very challenging illnesses can make all the difference.”

As time goes by, 9/11 may become a distant memory for some. That is not the case for the thousands of Americans who spent hours, days and even months in the affected areas. LHI is honored to fulfill the mission of caring for our nation’s 9/11 responders and survivors through contracts with the National Institutes of Health, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

To determine if you’re eligible for services through the WTC Health Program, visit www.cdc.gov/wtc or call 1-888-982-4748. To learn more about joining the WTC Health Program NPN, visit LogisticsHealth.com/JoinUs or call 1-888-852-1988.

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References

  1. Centers for Disease Control. World Trade Center Health Program. Program Statistics. Last updated May 13, 2019. Accessed June 13, 2019.
  2. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Pulmonary Function after Exposure to the World Trade Center Collapse in the New York City Fire Department. Published Aug. 1, 2006. Accessed Aug. 5, 2019.
  3. Centers for Disease Control. World Trade Center Health Program. Covered Conditions. Last updated June 11, 2019. Accessed June 12, 2019.
  4. Ibid.