Press Release

Community Health Program Providing Care For 9/11’s Forgotten Victims


Coalition, Congress Members, Announce Expansion of 9/11 Health Program

WHAT: Beyond Ground Zero Network and Bellevue Hospital Center announce 9/11 Community Health Initiative, a comprehensive program designed to address the mounting public health crisis in Lower Manhattan arise out of the World Trade Center disaster.

WHERE: Bellevue Hospital Center, Atrium Building, 28th Street & 1st Avenue

WHEN: 11:00am Monday, July 18th, 2005

Beyond Ground Zero (BGZ) Network and Bellevue Hospital, in unique collaboration, announce the 9/11 Community Health Initiative in response to the mounting health crisis in Lower Manhattan, especially among low income and immigrant workers and residents. Four years after the disaster, the health of the community is deteriorating rapidly as people, especially the elderly, the disabled and children suffer from debilitating asthma and respiratory problems and other health problems resulting from the fallout of the World Trade Center. This Heath Initiative, the only one of its kind, is designed to carry out extensive outreach in communities that have been ignored after 9/11, particularly in the Lower East Side and Chinatown, to provide medical screening, testing, immediate treatment and study to address these unmet healthcare needs.

The BGZ Network was formed in response to the discriminatory disaster relief policies impacting low income and immigrant workers and residents—Chinese garment workers, Mexican busboys, Puerto Rican and Dominican mothers—in the aftermath of 9/11. Since 9/11, BGZ has carried out extensive grassroots outreach and education in Chinatown and the Lower East Side and the on-going health impact of the disaster, provided necessary referrals and support to individuals to get crucial medical attention and access to health care, and brought about positive policy changes to effectively address the unmet needs of low-income and immigrant workers and residents.

BGZ and Bellevue Clinic began our collaboration with a pilot program in 2004, without funding, and have provided critically needed screening and treatment to almost 350 individuals who were otherwise overlooked. With the support from September 11 recovery grants from the American Red Cross Liberty Disaster Relief Fund to both organizations, and supporting assistance from United Methodist Church, Catholic Charities and the Episcopal Church, we have been able to formally launch the 9/11 Community Health Initiative and expand its services to include treatment for asthma and respiratory problems, anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. With this expansion, we will also be able to include children and individuals regardless of their immigration status or ability to pay for services. This Health initiative represents the only program that addresses both the short-term and long-term health effects of residents and workers beyond Ground Zero.

I felt very low, like I did not have much choice. When I found out about the program with BGZ and Bellevue, I took a chance. The change has been amazing. The doctors at the Bellevue clinic took my problems seriously and through this clinic I was able to get some treatment. The government let us breath in all that bad air and now we are suffering because of it. We were healthy before 9/11 and now we are sick. I wanted to participate in this clinic because I wanted to show the government that I am sick. Everyone should speak out about their health problems. People have to be united in this and be concerned about their health before it is too late.

—Xiomara de la Cruz, resident of Lower East Side

Time has shown that the governments denial of the toxic 9/11 fallout and its severe health impact has only made conditions worse for the workers and residents of the Lower East Side and Chinatown. The government has still not provided any resources for this important health program. The BGZ/Bellevue Health Initiative, which is solely funded through private sources, is the first to respond to the worsening health conditions of working people after 9/11. BGZ calls upon the government at all levels to join in this effort to develop a broad-based and comprehensive community health plan.