Center for Asbestos Related Disease and Libby Asbestos Update
The COVID-19 outbreak has slowed our whole world. That includes the transfer of responsibility for ongoing management of the Libby Asbestos Superfund site to Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This transition was set to occur on April 1, 2020, but currently there is no clear timeline for the changeover to take place. In the meantime, if you have questions about possible asbestos exposure related to construction, demolition or other property conditions, the Lincoln County Asbestos Resource Program (ARP) remains available. ARP can be contacted through their website (www.lcarp.org) or by phone at (406) 291-5335. ARP will remain to help locally with Operations and Maintenance (O&M) after the Superfund site management has changed to DEQ. They will help ensure that the finalized asbestos superfund cleanup remains intact and protective of patient health into the future. Ongoing asbestos health screening also remains available for those potentially exposed. CARD was forced to close our doors for a short time due to COVID-19, but we are now reopening, and with some additional protections, we will be seeing both screening patients and those who need ongoing pulmonary care.
The asbestos health screening and lung cancer screening programs offered at CARD are funded by a grant from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). EPA placed Libby and Troy on the Superfund National Priorities List in 2002 for asbestos cleanup and then declared an Environmental Public Health Emergency (PHE) for the site in 2009. Because of this latter designation, certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) came into force, allowing for the CDC-funded screening grant, expansion of Medicare benefits to individuals with asbestos related diseases, and the establishment of a Medicare Pilot Program for asbestos related disease. The Pilot Program provides funding for medical supplies and services that are not otherwise covered under Medicare. Covered expenses can include medical equipment or services such as lawn care and snow removal. Nearly all of CARD’s patients (over 7,000) participate in one or more of these programs afforded by ACA and EPA’s designation of the Libby Asbestos Superfund Site as a PHE. We are thankful for the ongoing support of these programs and as we move towards reopening businesses and socializing more in the wake of COVID-19, it is also important to remember why these programs exist.
Many in our local population have been exposed to asbestos and have chronic lung disease. These individuals are considered at higher risk for getting severely ill if they contract COVID-19. As we come out of isolation, it is important to continue social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing in public. These precautions will not only help protect each of us individually but they will also protect those in our population who are at higher risk. Your mask will protect me and my mask will protect you. The CARD clinic will reopen to local patients on May 11 and we ask that everyone entering be conscientious of the new social distancing measures we have in place. In addition to social distancing, during phase I of reopening, we will be checking everyone’s temperature and you will be asked to wear a mask while in the building. CARD’s staff members look forward to regaining more personal interactions with those we serve while doing all that we can to protect your health.