The first clinic dedicated to treating non-FDNY 9/11 responders living in Brooklyn who suffer from mental and physical ailments related to exposures at Ground Zero opened Monday.
"For the first time the World Trade Center Health Program will have a facility in Brooklyn, New York where many of our first responders will have access to specific medical attention they need due to serving us on 9/11," said Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, D-Prospect Heights.
Stony Brook University's Long Island Clinical Center of Excellence (LI-CCE), part of the World Trade Center Health Program, expanded Monday to a new clinical site at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.
FDNY 9/11 responders are treated through the Fire Department of New York Responder Health Program also developed by the World Trade Center Health Program.
"As a result of that terrible incident, we had a rescue operations hat really demonstrated the strength of New York and New Yorkers, when hundreds of people volunteered to go to that site and make it disappear as quickly as possible," said Dr. John LaRosa, president of SUNY Downstate.
"What I think none of us recognized, including the EPA and SUNY administration was how much in harm's way many of those people were."
Many of those people live in Brooklyn and were unable to travel to LI-CCE's other clinics located in Suffolk and Nassau Counties.
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"Our expansion to Brooklyn offers the opportunity, with [SUNY] Downstate, to make an impact to really improve the level of care of those deserving first-responders," said Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, senior vice president for health sciences and dean, school of medicine, Stony Brook University.
"[The first responders] did not go there with any idea of what was waiting for them, whether they were going to be put in harms way or not," said Dr. Benjamin Luft, medical director of the LI-CCE. "They wanted to do the right thing. They wanted to respond and help their fellow man."
"The people of Brooklyn are finally going to get the help they deserve," said John Feal, a first responder and patient and founder of the FealGoodFoundation. "Many people in Brooklyn cannot travel to the city for treatment for financial reasons or because of their health. It's long overdue that this is done today."
"There's so much you take for granted; you take for granted that these types of services would be available throughout the boroughs, for so many who came from New York City directly to The Pile, to save lives," Clarke said. "When I found out there wasn't a place in Brooklyn for first responders and those volunteers…I just thought we had to do something about that."
Funding for the clinic came from the Zadroga Act, which President Obama signed into law in January 2011. It allows those with 9/11 related health conditions to qualify for health care.
"Brooklyn holds a special place in my heart and I'm glad to see it's finally open," said NYPD Detective Glen Klein, a first responder and patient. "The money from the Zadroga bill is working; this is what it was all about. The people who are sick and cannot afford to travel to Long Island, aren't well enough to travel to Long Island, now have their special place."
The clinic includes 11 exam rooms and will be available to serve approximately 3,000 first responders that live in Brooklyn, said Ellen Honey, an administrator with SUNY Downstate Medical Center to Ditmas Park Patch.
Those interested in making an appointment can obtain an application form by calling 1-888-WTC-HP4U, Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. EST.
Visit the program website at www.cdc.gov/niosh.wtc and click on "Enroll in the Program" to find forms for printing.