Thousands of first responders sickened by exposure to toxic chemicals at Ground Zero can now seek treatment at a second Long Island health center -- a Winthrop-University Hospital clinic in Garden City.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, Terrence Meaney, 51, of Franklin Square, who worked for the Port Authority Police EMS unit, said it's a relief to have access to care closer to home.

"Sometimes your mind isn't in the right place due to all of this, and if you have to make a long drive, you're going to be more reluctant to do it," he said.

Meaney is already being treated at the new facility for post-traumatic stress disorder and other illnesses. He said he worked at the World Trade Center site for more than seven months after 9/11, recovering human remains.

Previously, Meaney had to travel to Manhattan or across Long Island to see his doctors.

"The proximity of this means just so much to both of us," said his wife, Elizabeth. "He comes home feeling a lot better that he was able to see somebody in familiar surroundings."

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The Long Island World Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program at Stony Brook University Hospital, based in Islandia, will remain open. Doctors and nurses there care for more than 3,500 first responders, most of whom live or work in Suffolk.

The new center is set up to serve about 2,500 first responders, including police officers, firefighters, paramedics and construction workers.

Like the Islandia clinic, the one in Garden City provides annual monitoring exams, medical treatment and mental health services, including counseling.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) and other members of the Long Island congressional delegation joined doctors and nurses at the center Friday to celebrate the opening.

Paddy Dolan, 65, who spent months removing debris from Ground Zero, is grateful to have access to treatment near his home in Lynbrook.

"If you're having a hard time breathing, you have a harder time concentrating on what you're doing on the LIE," Dolan said. "You can come here, just a few miles away. It's a tremendous difference."

The clinic is located within the Winthrop Wellness Pavilion, 1300 Franklin Ave., in Garden City.