News From OSA - November, 2008

Special Edition: World Trade Center Environmental Health Center

It’s been more than seven years since the tragic events of September 11, 2001. On that horrible day, we opened the union office to members who needed a place to stay because they were unable to return home after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Today, we hope to be of service in a different way – to those of you whose health has been affected by the attacks – by bringing to your attention free physical and mental health treatment services available at the World Trade Center Environmental Health Center (WTC EHC), a program of the Health and Hospitals Corporation located at Bellevue Hospital, Gouverneur Health Services in Lower Manhattan, and Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens.

The WTC EHC is the only center of excellence providing physical and mental health care services to people affected by 9/11 who were not first responders.

Many OSA members worked downtown on 9/11 and in the weeks and months afterward, in close proximity to the World Trade Center site. Many were exposed to a range of toxic materials.

  • Some OSA members were exposed to the initial dust cloud when the towers fell.
  • Some were exposed to dust in their offices when they were called back to work as soon as a week after 9/11.
  • Some were exposed when cleaning took place in their offices while they were present.
  • Some were exposed when the smoke from the continuously burning “pile” drifted over the area where they worked during the more than six months that fires continued at the WTC site after 9/11.
  • In short, you did not have to be a first responder working on the “pile” to be exposed and have your health adversely affected.

    If you are suffering new, worsened, or persistent physical or mental health problems that you believe are related to 9/11, you are eligible for care at the WTC EHC. The WTC EHC works in cooperation with community and labor organizations and residents affected by 9/11, including our union.

    If you believe you have physical or mental health problems related to 9/11, call 1-877-WTC-0107 toll free. You will reach someone who will ask you a few questions about your health problems and help to determine if the program is right for you. Please let the person who answers the phone know that you are an OSA member and that you learned about the Center from the union.

    The initial visit to the Center includes a comprehensive assessment of your health. Among the many conditions identified in patients at the Center thus far are new, worsened, or persistent respiratory problems, stomach and esophageal problems, skin conditions, and depression and anxiety. But, even if you don’t see your specific problem in this short list, please call the WTC EHC if you believe your health problem is connected to 9/11.

    Treatment at the Center is provided at no out-of-pocket cost to you.

    Even if you presently have other doctors who are treating you for 9/11-related conditions, it is important to contact the Center and see their doctors. Center doctors, who have a vast amount of experience with 9/11- related health conditions, will work with your physician to help in your treatment.

    The health data collected by the Center is an important tool both in research to determine the scope of 9/11 health impacts and in ensuring that there is adequate funding for treatment for affected individuals. The confidentiality of your information will be protected.

    You can download a brochure here for the WTC EHC which explains in greater detail the services the Center provides. For some of you, the information in the brochure will be enough and you will call 1-877-WTC-0107 to schedule an initial appointment.

    Others may want more information about the WTC EHC before making that call.

    On December 2, 2008, from 6 to 7:30pm, OSA will hold an information session at the union office to provide you with the opportunity to learn more about the Center and to ask any questions that you may have. Dr. Joan Reibman, the program’s medical director, will be our guest.

    You may download a flyer here about the WTC EHC information session for OSA members which includes a coupon to return if you are interested in attending, as well as a brief survey about your 9/11-related exposures and health conditions.

    You may download the survey here. We ask that you complete the survey and return it to us by mail or fax. Information you provide will not be associated with identifying information and will be compiled only as aggregate statistics. If you wish, you may photocopy the survey and return it separately. if you are interested in attending the information session at the union office, please complete the coupon at the bottom of the flyer and mail or fax it back to 212-686-1231.

    We hope you will take this opportunity to take action to help yourself if your health has been affected by 9/11.