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New Funding Will Help SBU Expand Healthcare Services for WTC Responders

Responders on the pile 2

Stony Brook WTC Health and Wellness Program Receives $147M

The Stony Brook World Trade Center (WTC) Health and Wellness Program has received new federal funding to expand and build upon its multiple healthcare services for WTC responders. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has awarded the WTC Health Program Clinical Center of Excellence (CCE) at Stony Brook — under the direction of Dr. Benjamin Luft — $147 million over the next eight years.

Responders on the pile 2
WTC responders at Ground Zero, working on the pile in the aftermath of 9/11.  Credit: John Bombace

The Stony Brook CCE monitors and treats more than 13,000 WTC responders, many out of its main facility and clinic in Commack, NY. The program has been federally funded for 18 years, with NIOSH funding supporting clinical services for responder patients treated at Stony Brook. This additional outlay of NIOSH funding comes at a time when many responders — more than 20 years past 9/11 — have multiple health conditions, ranging from PTSD, respiratory illnesses, certain cancers and long-term COVID.

“As time moves on, the medical cases of WTC responders become more complex and challenging to treat,” said Benjamin Luft, MD, director of the Stony Brook WTC Health and Wellness Program, and the Edmund D. Pellegrino Professor of Medicine at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. “For this reason and the fact that most of the diseases we treat are chronic, being able to expand our clinical offerings as well as integrate services such as respiratory and psychiatric care at the clinic is vital to the care we provide our patients with the goal to cure some and treat all of their conditions. The new NIOSH contract enables us to carry this out for years to come.”

Benjamin luft
Benjamin Luft, director of the WTC Wellness Program.

Luft added that the funding will support infrastructure needs for the clinic and its satellite in Mineola, NY, over the eight-year period. Use of state-of-the-art technologies that will optimize care — as well as emerging capabilities in telehealth and AI to communicate, diagnose, and monitor individual cases — will also be part of the integration and advancement of services as a result of the new federal funding.

Luft and colleagues care for thousands of patients, many of whom have multiple health issues simultaneously. He stresses that providing continued expansion of services as patient cases “evolve,” and being better able to manage and coordinate those cases through close integration of care and incorporating new technologies, will translate to better quality of life for most of the WTC responders the program treats.

The Stony Brook program is the only center that provides care for patients in both Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island. Central to its mission is incorporating research findings into its clinical care.

Stony Brook University faculty in disciplines such as public health, psychiatry, pulmonary care, cardiovascular care and neurosciences all take part in ongoing research related to the health issues of WTC responders.

Research funding to the program has also built up for more than 10 years. Over the past decade, upwards to $32 million of competitive federal research funding has been awarded to the program and to affiliated Stony Brook researchers in an effort to better understand WTC-related illnesses and identify trends and potential emerging health problems in this patient population.

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