The federal government is giving more than $60 million over five years to Stony Brook University’s WTC Wellness Program, which treats people with health problems stemming from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“This transformational grant will help to expand services for this important patient population and is a testament to the program’s long-term commitment and impact in caring for them,” Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel Stanley Jr. said Tuesday in announcing the contract.
Stony Brook will use the $60.4 million for services such as case management, outreach, doctor education and computer systems, said Dr. Benjamin Luft, director of the program and its clinics. The main clinic is in the process of moving from Islandia to a larger site in Commack. A satellite clinic is in Mineola.
The funding comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Glen Klein, 58, of Centereach, who has suffered lung damage, gastrointestinal problems, asthma and post-traumatic stress disorder following his more than 800 hours at Ground Zero as an NYPD officer, said case managers are vital. They connect program clients like him to the right specialists, ensure they receive appropriate medication and are available to talk.
“They obviously get to know your case, get to know you,” Klein said. “They don’t want you to have more stress than you already have. . . . Any problems you have or issues, you just give them a call, and they’ll take care of it pretty quickly.”
Luft said the new funding will help improve and speed up case management, as well as increase outreach to and education of 9/11 responders.
The wellness program currently serves more than 9,500 emergency responders, recovery workers and others who were at or near the rubble of the World Trade Center in the weeks and months after 9/11, including nearly 1,200 with cancer-related illnesses, Luft said.
John Feal, president of the FealGood Foundation, a Nesconset-based 9/11 responders advocacy organization and a program client, said doctors connected with the clinic have an expertise in 9/11-related ailments that most responders’ personal physicians don’t have.
“The doctors who now have 10 to 12 years treating us have a better idea of what they’re treating and what they’re looking for,” he said.
More than 100 new clients a month have come to the program in the past several months, Luft said. The number of those served by the program continues to grow as 9/11-related symptoms appear or worsen, as responders’ health insurance runs out, and as people who put off seeing a doctor seek help, Luft said. Clients see doctors at the clinic and off-site.
Most clients have 9/11-related illnesses. Others haven’t become sick but receive regular evaluations, so if a problem emerges, it can be caught early.
The program screens 9/11 responders who may be eligible for care under the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said the funding “is an essential way to remember and honor the brave sacrifices made in the aftermath of the attack on our nation.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the program does “critically important, lifesaving work . . . All medical treatment and compensation programs for these first responders must be a top priority.”