Libby, MT – For those Libby residents who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related disease, federally funded medical care will be available.
The program of medical services will be funded by a $6 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services, which was issued to the Lincoln County Health Department and a consortium. They will help provide care for those residents of the area who have contracted an asbestos-related disease from the now-defunct vermiculite mine owned and operated by W.R. Grace and Co. Screening begins next week for the program. In order to be eligible for CDC-funded screening for the problem, you must have lived or worked in the Libby area for a minimum of six (non-consecutive) months prior to 2015.
Additionally, a minimum of 10 years must have passed since your first potential exposure to asbestos, as the diseases associated with this mineral generally take up to 30-40 years, to be accurately diagnosed because they have a very long latency, or delay, period. Mesothelioma, a rare cancer which is nearly always linked directly to asbestos exposure, targets a particular membrane that surrounds the lungs and lines the chest cavity. Because of its long latency period, most patients are not diagnosed until they are elderly, when the disease is already greatly advanced. For this reason, mesothelioma is usually not very responsive to treatment, and palliative care to ease a patient’s pain and help keep them comfortable is the best that can be anticipated. Mesothelioma is diagnosed in over 2,000 new patients in the United States each year. Because of the mining of vermiculite in the Libby area, and the widespread use in the community of contaminated vermiculite materials, the proportion of people affected by this disease in this area is much higher.