July 1, 2013 marks the second anniversary of the World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program, established by the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The Program provides medical monitoring and treatment to eligible 9/11 responders and survivors. This past year has brought important changes to the Program, including expanded benefits, new partners, and an increase in recruitment efforts at both the grassroots and national level. While we have over 64,000 members currently in the Program, it is our goal to make sure that everyone who is qualified for the Program enrolls and receives the care they deserve.On this anniversary, I’d like to reflect on just a few of the Program’s recruitment and benefit efforts over the last year.
- Responders from the Pentagon and Shanksville, PA are now eligible to enroll in the WTC Health Program. This expansion in eligibility is a major step forward in serving these important responder groups. The Program is now actively recruiting Pentagon and Shanksville responders. We are mailing out hundreds of letters to potentially eligible groups, conducting outreach sessions with individual organizations, and have scheduled town hall meetings in Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia for this summer.
- The WTC Health Program formed formal partnerships with eight community and union organizations to recruit new enrollees and provide educational information to current members. These groups were chosen for the ability to reach diverse and hard-to-reach audiences. Our partners began activities in late 2012 and have already increased local and national outreach to groups, such as those that provided mental health services on 9/11 and the proceeding months; retirees, high school and college students in lower Manhattan; and firefighters who are spread out all over the country. Our outreach partners have already succeeded in securing donated ad space in major national magazines, connecting underserved populations with Program benefits, and holding meetings with affected populations. These partners work closely with our Clinical Centers of Excellence to conduct outreach to residents, students, families, firefighters, police officers, construction workers, trade unions, and other local organizations.
- In October 2012, the WTC Health Program added over 20 categories of cancers to the list of covered conditions. This change greatly expands medical services to current and future members. The new rule was enacted following an extensive review of medical literature and a public comment period.
- In April 2013, the WTC Health Program announced new criteria for breast cancer coverage. Now eligible responders and survivors may be certified for the treatment of breast can¬cer if they’ve experienced nighttime sleep disruption from response or clean-up activities or PCB exposure resulting from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
- The WTC Health Program has expanded national benefits to survivors by creating the Nationwide Provider Network. A previous version of this program was available only to responders. Now all members who reside outside the New York City metropolitan area may receive monitoring and treatment benefits near where they live.
- The WTC Health Program website has been redesigned to better serve the needs of current and future members, while also providing information to the public about health effects related to 9/11 exposures in an easy to access manner.
Moving into the third year of the Program we plan to continue strong and targeted recruitment efforts while also providing quality care to all of our members.
If you have any questions about the WTC Health Program, please call us at 1-888-982-4748 or email us at WTC@cdc.gov.
Thank you,John Howard, M.D.
Administrator, World Trade Center Health Program