"They've been sick." Clinic workers update Sen. Brown on health problems in East Palestine
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown visited the temporary health clinic in East Palestine to hear from health care workers about the symptoms and mental health conditions that residents continue to report more than a month after a Norfolk Southern train derailment led to a chemical spill.
On Tuesday, Brown visited the temporary health center at the First Church of Christ on West Martin Street. The clinic, run by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and the Columbiana County health department, provides care to everyone seeking medical advice regardless of their ability to pay.
And many East Palestine residents are looking for help.
A recent ODH health survey of about 450 East Palestine residents found the majority of respondents reported headaches, anxiety, coughing, fatigue and skin irritation.
That matches what nurses stationed at the temporary clinic say they have been seeing.
“They've been sick, a lot of them," said Latasha Davis, who works as a nurse at the clinic. "The residents here have been complaining of the same symptoms... chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing.”
Nurses like Davis said they are connecting everyone who comes to the clinic with a primary care doctor if they don’t already have one. But they also told the senator that the overwhelming majority of patients are struggling with their mental health.
Brown said the clinic staff told him they’re working hard to de-stigmatize therapy.
“Older men are less likely to be willing to talk about mental health issues than younger men and women who know that they shouldn't be ashamed to have mental health struggles,” he said.
Clinic officials said they are connecting almost every East Palestine resident who comes in with a stress counselor. They said there are options to get therapy long-term as well.
Workers at the clinic said they continue to work to build trust in a community where many don’t believe what they hear from officials and residents continue to struggle with health issues.
East Palestine resident Scott McAleer said he went to see his doctor to get advice for his disabled step-daughter who has a persistent rash on her neck that started after the derailment.
“We [saw] our primary, but they didn't know what to test for," he said. "She just sat across from her and looked and gave her an ointment cream and sent her home. So what do you do then?”
McAleer said his long-term post-traumatic stress disorder is getting worse because he can’t get satisfactory answers to his questions about long-term effects in the wake of the spill.