New York - 9/11 First Responders To Lose Mental Health Aid

New York - As New York City said thank you to the heroes of September 11, many who still suffer psychological trauma were told they will be losing their mental health benefits early next year.

"Long term it's going to have a devastating effect on a lot of the members," said Frank Ancona, retired firefighter.

About 4,500 people who were in Lower Manhattan on 9/11 and don't qualify for other programs are enrolled in the City-funded benefit plan. 

On Friday the City notified them that as of January 7, 2011, they will no longer be reimbursed for counseling services or medication related to mental health issues.

Retired firefighter Paddy Concannon was still haunted what he and other first responders went through. "Even coming back here, it just instills all those memories and a lot of pain and I don't see why something like that is not continued."

A letter to members of the program states that it was always meant to be temporary and says "funding for 9/11 health services remains a federal responsibility, and the City will continue to advocate for strong federal support."

Mayor Bloomberg requested federal funding for the $3 million program, but negotiations fell through.

"These are long-term chronic conditions that are very difficult to treat," said Dr. Jim Melius, Chair of the WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Steering Committee.

New York lawmakers are hoping a bill currently working its way through congress will keep mental health benefits and others set to expire soon on the table indefinitely.

"It should be adequate. It should be guaranteed. It shouldn't depend on who gets elected next to Congress or President," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan).

"It cant be a 3-year commitment, a 10-year commitment, it has to be ongoing," said Concannon.

The bill is awaiting a final vote in the House but has yet to get a hearing in the Senate.

The Mayor's Office said all first responders will be eligible to receive free mental health services through one of the 9/11 health centers. 



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