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NYC offers new 9/11 health benefit

April 21, 2008 5:08:37 PM PDT
The New York City Health Department is offering a new mental health benefit program for people still struggling with the effects of the World Trade Center attack. The Health Department will reimburse out-of-pocket costs for mental health or substance-use treatment through a claims process similar to any insurance benefit.

New York City residents, and city workers, can find out if they're eligible by calling "311" or visiting the agency's Web site.

The new benefit covers out-of-pocket costs for outpatient mental health and substance-use services. It also covers medication, laboratory work and psychological evaluations.

The symptoms have persisted for some people, causing long-term disability. Research findings from the World Trade Center Health Registry indicate that two to three years after the attacks:

  • Rescue and recover workers experienced PTSD symptoms at three times the rate of the general population. Even higher rates were found among workers who lacked prior training or experience in responding to disasters.
  • Lower Manhattan residents who were present during the attacks, or had to evacuate their homes afterward, experienced PTSD symptoms at up to three times the rate of other residents in the same area.
  • About 11 percent of adult survivors of collapsed or damaged buildings suffered serious psychological distress. Survivors were more likely to report depression, anxiety or other emotional problems if they had been caught in the dust cloud surrounding the World Trade Center.

    PTSD may increase the risk of depression and substance use. Neither problem has shown a persistent citywide increase since 9/11, but there has been little research on whether those directly affected by the attacks may be experiencing these conditions.

    Accessing Mental Health Services

    Apart from the new reimbursement benefit, New York City maintains three World Trade Center (WTC) Centers of Excellence that offer free, integrated physical and mental health care to eligible individuals affected by the collapse of the World Trade Center:

  • The WTC Environmental Health Center provides services at Bellevue Hospital Center and Gouverneur Healthcare Services (both in Manhattan) and at Elmhurst Hospital Center (Queens)
  • The Mount Sinai Consortium provides services through the WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program
  • The Fire Department of New York also participates in the WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program

    New Yorkers seeking a mental health service provider to assess their condition or provide therapy can call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/9-11healthinfo.