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January 15th, 2011 Community leaders from across the Gulf Coast attended a public hearing on the National Oil Spill Commission’s final report on Wednesday, January 12, led by Commissioners Frances Beinecke and Donald Boesch.“The key concern expressed by the community in response to the report is the overwhelming need for access to health care,” said LaTosha Brown, director of the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health. “Over and over, people exposed to crude and dispersants from the drilling disaster told stories of serious health issues — from high levels of ethylbenzene in their blood, to respiratory ailments and internal bleeding — and expressed an urgent need for access to doctors who have experience treating chemical exposure.”
The Gulf Coast Fund provides grants and support to over 250 community organizations to create a healthy and sustainable Gulf Coast.
Cherri Foytlin of Gulf Change, a community organization based in Grand Isle, Louisiana, made a personal plea to the Commission for help during the meeting.
|Cherri Foytlin Speaks out in DC|
archive photo by jlw
“Today I’m talking to you about my life. My ethylbenzene levels are 2.5 times the 95th percentile, and there’s a very good chance now that I won’t get to see my grandbabies,” Foytlin testified. “What I’m asking you to do now, if possible, is to amend [your report]. Because we have got to get some health care.
“I have seen small children with lesions all over their bodies,” she said. “We are very, very ill. And dead is dead.”
She said it really doesn’t matter if the media comes back, or the President listens us, or if the oil workers and the fishermen and the crabbers get to feed their babies and maybe have a good Christmas next year.
“Dead is dead,” she said. “I know your job is probably already done, but I’d like to hire you if you don’t mind. And God knows I can’t pay you. But I need your heart. And I need your voice. And I need you to come to that table. And I need you to insist that Feinberg and anybody else that needs to be in on that conversation comes too. And I’m asking you that today. And I would like you to say yes to me today. While you look me in the eye, please say yes you’ll come to my table.”
Commissioner Frances Beinecke responded to Foytlin with a resounding yes, and promised to convey these concerns to the White House.
Stephen Bradberry, executive director of the Alliance Institute and a Gulf Coast Fund advisor, said while the Gulf Coast Claims facility is not accepting health claims, people who have gotten sick and are now unable to work and don’t have the money to pay their medical bills.
“Health care needs to be taken out of the claims process,” he said. “We need a separate health task force that can focus solely on testing, monitoring, and studying the long-term health issues from exposure to crude and dispersants. And this needs to happen now.”
For more information, contact: Barbara Nonas, Communications, Gulf Coast Fund, firstname.lastname@example.org (212) 759-4378; (917) 902-6061; or Cherri Foytlin, Gulf Change email@example.com (337) 393-2219.
To hear more citizen voices from the Gulf, visit BridgeTheGulfProject.org.
Health Crisis Grows Along the Gulf Coast