WASHINGTON – The Bush administration said Thursday it will continue to help sick Sept. 11 workers, but would not say what their long-term health needs might cost.
Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt met with members of New York's congressional delegation, other members of Congress, advocates, and sick ground zero workers to discuss the first federal money for treating illnesses related to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Sept. 11 health experts say thousands of affected rescue and cleanup workers and volunteers will need decades of monitoring and treatment. Leavitt said that by the end of the month, Sept. 11 health programs would receive $75 million for treatment.
"If the $75 million proves to be inadequate, the federal government will be part of a coordinated effort to solve whatever the balance of the problem is," Leavitt told reporters after the meeting.
"We have a responsibility. We will meet it," he said.
Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Vito Fossella, R-N.Y., said $75 million is a good start, but won't come close to providing all the treatment needed for those suffering from lung problems, gastrointestinal disease, and mental health difficulties.
Dr. Robin Herbert, co-director of the Mount Sinai Medical Center program in New York studying ground zero health, said her group's share of that $75 million could be spent within a year.
On Tuesday, Mount Sinai released the results of the largest study of ground zero workers, finding that nearly 70 percent suffered lung problems, and many of those would likely be sick for the rest of their lives.
Mount Sinai examined 12,000 ground zero workers between July 2002 and April 2004, and got permission to use 9,442 workers in its research. They include construction workers, police and firefighters and other volunteers who worked at the site, in the city morgue or at a landfill where more than 1 million tons of trade center debris were carted.