Mulvaney, feds stay put on plan to restructure 9/11 health agency
The federal government isn’t budging on its plans to rejigger the agency that oversees the health treatment and monitoring of first responders with 9/11 illnesses — a move legislators feel will severely compromise both the program and the people who need it to survive.
In a letter sent to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), U.S. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the World Trade Center Health Program should thrive under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rather than its current home within the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The plan to move the WTC Health Program into the CDC was part of the proposed federal 2019 budget, which has yet to be approved.
Mulvaney insisted the move will be beneficial.
“(We) envision the World Trade Center Health Program will continue all operational and programmatic functions within the CDC without any service disruption to first responders and survivors,” he wrote.
He added he thought it would be a better fit because “NIOSH is primarily a research agency focused on occupational safety and health, and not focused on delivering health services.”
But legislators on both sides of the aisle are opposed to the move, claiming that the 83,000 9/11 survivors who rely on the World Trade Center Health Program are going to get lost in the bureaucratic shuffle — and may lose out on getting the services and prescription medications they need.
The move will also create a steep learning curve within the program since its current leaders won’t be moving to the CDC and are staying with NIOSH.
“Director Mulvaney should recognize the severe damage this proposal will cause to the men and women who rely on this program for critical health services,” Maloney said.
“Health care for thousands of 9/11 first responders and survivors would be severely disrupted if the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the experts who work there are no longer able to oversee the World Trade Center Health Program as the Congress organized it and just three years ago overwhelmingly reauthorized with bipartisan support.”
In his letter, Mulvaney said the program’s move is part of a larger plan to “consolidate certain NIOSH research activities within the National Institute of Health to improve the coordination of research across the federal government.”
“The administration proposes full mandatory funding of the federal share of the World Trade Center Health Program within CDC in the budget,” he wrote.
Maloney and Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Peter King (R-L.I.) want Mulvaney to abandon the plan — and are backed by first responder advocate John Feal, who has called the move a “stupid idea.”
In New York alone, there are some 17,000 firefighters and EMS members who are monitored by the FDNY for the WTC Health Program, another 15,000 cared for through a Survivor Program, and a general responder program at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
A national program covers another 15,000 registrants, which includes people who were at the 9/11 sites but don’t live in the affected states, or those who have since moved away from the affected states.