Lawmakers push bill to boost health funds for 9/11 survivors
As more anniversaries of the Sept. 11 terror attacks pass, more survivors fall victim adverse health effects.
“The first 20 years after 9/11 were difficult on the 9/11 community; the next 20 years are going to decimate us,” said John Feal, a 9/11 first-responder and advocate.
Federal lawmakers joined first responders Friday outside Mount Sinai hospital on the Upper East Side to call for bolstered funding to address 9/11-related trauma that’s much farther-reaching than previously understood.
“Not only do we see three-quarters of firefighters now have some illness or some disease or some cancer, but we’re also seeing cognitive decline, we’re seeing mental health effects, we’re seeing brain trauma,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand told NY1.
She and Rep. Carolyn Maloney are the lead sponsors of the 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act. It would plug an expected funding shortfall in the World Trade Center Health Program with $2.6 billion additional dollars. The deficit is a result of rising medical inflation, more people getting sick and the high cost of treating complex conditions like cancer.
“There are now 112,000 people under care in the World Trade Center Health Program, both responders and also neighbor residents — 112,000. Forty five thousand of those people have either lung or gastrointestinal disorder,” said Dr. Steven Markowitz, an environmental health expert who works with the World Trade Center Health Program.
The legislation would additionally help research how toxic exposure and psychological trauma impact the people who were children at the time of the attack and lived or attended school near the World Trade Center.
Mariama James, a Sept. 11 survivor, recalled: “I would drag them around from doctor to doctor because people didn’t believe in 9/11-related health, but I knew that my children were sick because of 9/11. And so I took them to ENTs and pulmonologists and finally discovered the program.”
Maloney added: “We do know that many of the children at 9/11 who returned to school have become sick and we need to document it and crack that. That’s part of the important research part of the bill.”
The members of this bipartisan coalition had a message to their colleagues in Congress who might be resistant to passing this legislation.
They say the Sept. 11 aftermath isn't just a New York issue, it's a national one.