HHS Bolsters Efforts in Aftermath of Terrorist Attacks
Two days after terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson announced yesterday in New York City that the department would provide at least $2.5 million in initial grants to the city to help provide child care, elderly assistance, mental health care and other community services, the Washington Post reports (White, Washington Post, 9/14). The grants include $1 million for community mental health centers in the New York City area, $1 million for a number of social and community services in New York City and $500,000 for services for seniors. "We want New Yorkers to know that we will do everything we can to help in the healing process," Thompson said (HHS release, 9/13). Thompson also said that Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in lower Manhattan who have difficulty obtaining health services can call a new 24-hour hotline at 800-331-7767 for immediate help (Washington Post, 9/14). Parents with children enrolled in Child Health Plus, New York's CHIP program, also can call the hotline with questions (HHS release, 9/13). The department has sent more than 400 medical and emergency staff members to New York to help local officials, and Thompson said that three mental health and crisis experts from the department will travel to the disaster sites to provide counseling (Washington Post, 9/13). "These devastating aerial attacks have shocked the nation into the realization that acts of massive, random, criminal violence cannot be relegated to some place 'over there,'" Thompson said (HHS release, 9/13). HHS provided additional support yesterday, including:
- HHS sent a National Medical Response Team to New
York to help identify possible industrial chemical-related
problems that may result from the collapse of buildings.
- HHS sent a portable morgue from Houston, Texas, to
Pennsylvania to assist in identification and preparation of casualties in the crash of a hijacked plane near Somerset County, Pa.
- The PHS Commissioned Corps, under the direction of the Office of the Surgeon General, supplied 35 medical staff members to Bethesda Naval Medical Center to provide back-up for personnel now aboard the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, which has sailed for New York.
- A total of 15 CDC staff members have traveled to New York City to identify and help prevent potential secondary diseases, including infectious disease and effects of dust and other debris.
- The FDA, which has monitored the supply of pharmaceuticals and blood, reported an adequate supply.
- The FDA helped arrange deliveries of skin products for burn
victims in New York City and Washington, D.C. (HHS release, 9/14).
Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent eight 62-member Urban Search and Rescue teams to New York City and four to the Pentagon. FEMA also sent 10,000 respirators to those helping at the disaster sites. The Environmental Protection Agency said that the World Trade Center "showed elevated levels" of asbestos and has sent masks and goggles to protect rescue teams (Washington Post, 9/14). According to EPA officials, the agency hopes to "minimize any environmental effects of the disasters and their aftermath" (EPA release, 9/14). Attorney General John Ashcroft said that the Department of Justice would "quickly" provide about $150,000 in benefit payments to the families of law enforcement officers, fire fighters, emergency team response members and ambulance team members killed in the line of duty. In addition, the Office of Personnel Management said that the agency would "expedite" compensation claims for federal employees injured in the attacks (Washington Post, 9/14).