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Press Release
New York City Department of Health
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Sandra Mullin/Greg Butler
Friday, January 11, 2002
(212) 295-5335/5336


NYC DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH RELEASES
COMMUNITY NEEDS ASSESSMENT OF LOWER MANHATTAN


The New York City Department of Health (DOH) announced today the results of a survey conducted in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New York City Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Alcoholism Services (DMH) to assess the physical and mental health needs of lower Manhattan residents following the World Trade Center disaster. DOH will distribute the survey results to residents of lower Manhattan, community boards, and other local organizations in lower Manhattan.

Survey teams consisting of DOH and CDC staff members canvassed selected apartment units in Battery Park City, Southbridge Towers, and Independence Plaza in lower Manhattan in late October 2001. For other residential areas south of Reade Street, survey teams convened focus groups to obtain public input. In all 414 individuals participated in the door-to-door survey. Participation was voluntary and anonymous, and only included residents who had occupied their homes at the time of the survey. The main findings of the study, were:

  • Approximately 50% of those surveyed at the end of October 2001 continued to experience short-term physical symptoms likely related to the World Trade Center disaster, such as nose, throat, and eye irritation. These symptoms were consistent with exposure to smoke that was released from the fires recently extinguished at the World Trade Center disaster area.
  • Nearly 40% of those interviewed said they had symptoms suggestive of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - a condition experienced after a distressing event - and approximately 1/3 of individuals surveyed thought they would benefit from additional counseling.
  • Of those who scored high on the PTSD screening, almost 50% believed they would not benefit from further counseling, suggesting that some individuals in Lower Manhattan who suffer symptoms from PTSD do not recognize their need for counseling.
  • Overall 59% of residents surveyed reported receiving information about recommended cleaning procedures. In some households, interviewees cited a need for financial and/or physical assistance with cleanup efforts.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder include: emotional numbness; sleep disturbances; depression and anxiety; feelings of intense guilt; as well as irritability or outbursts of anger. PTSD is diagnosed when these symptoms persist for more than one month, and symptoms typically develop within three months of a traumatic event.

NYC Departments of Health and Mental Health Respond to Community Needs

In response to the survey results, the Departments of Health and Mental Health will continue extensive outreach services to populations affected by the World Trade Center Disaster. These services include:

  • Continuing to develop and distribute information regarding air quality and recommended clean-up procedures;
  • Monitoring efforts to maintain dust suppression in the areas close to ground zero (i.e., wetting down debris from the disaster site and using tarps for dust reduction);
  • Providing information to residents and medical providers on health and mental health effects associated with the disaster site; and
  • Communicating with agencies overseeing the clean-up process around the WTC disaster site.

The New York City Departments of Health (DOH) and Mental Health (DMH) recently launched a public education campaign entitled NEW YORK NEEDS US STRONG. This program is part of Project Liberty, an ongoing disaster-recovery initiative created by the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) to provide free, immediate crisis counseling, education, and referral services to people affected by the World Trade Center disaster. Statewide, Project Liberty is being implemented through:

  • A broad public education campaign that targets anyone who may benefit from counseling services;
  • Outreach services that are based on the expectation that those in need of services may not seek them on their own initiative;
  • Individual and group counseling services for individuals needing assistance in returning to their pre-disaster level of functioning; and
  • Services will take place in the environments of those affected (e.g., work sites, community centers, residences).

The Department of Mental Health, working with the National Mental Health Association, continues to operate 1-800-LIFENET - a 24-hour mental health counseling, information, and referral line to assist those who are experiencing emotional distress. LifeNet operators provide assistance in English, Spanish (1-877-AYUDESE ), and Chinese (1-877-990-8585).

For more information, please call the Health Department's Community Healthworks Office at (212) 341 9811. Additional information can be obtained by calling 1-800-LIFENET or by visiting nyc.gov/health.

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