Residents of Libby, Montana who were dismayed at the closing of the Montana Asbestos Screening and Surveillance Activities office on Mineral Avenue will be pleased to learn that free asbestos screenings are still available. Provided by the Libby Asbestos Medical Plan (LAMP), these free screenings offer patients a more thorough medical evaluation and diagnosis than those given by the government. The government’s MASSA program could not make a diagnosis of any medical disease; instead, it surveyed the incidence of disease for epidemiological purposes. This facilitated reporting of possible asbestos related diseases.
An official diagnosis had to be made in a separate examination by a medical doctor who would take into account the patient’s history and other considerations. The LAMP program allows patients to be evaluated directly by a doctor, and it is accepted not just at the Center for Asbestos Related Disease, the clinic known commonly around town as CARD, and St. John’s Lutheran Hospital, but also at medical facilities across the country. Of the 3,100 who were eligible for the MASSA program, all of them qualify for LAMP. If opting to have their asbestos screening done at an outside facility, they might have to pay costs which exceed those covered by the plan. When screened at CARD or at St. John’s patients receive a physician’s evaluation and pulmonary function test. St. John’s also offers CT scans and X-rays. Money for LAMP originated with compensation won in a suit against W.R. Grace. An additional $1.5 million was put into the program from the state of Montana to allow LAMP to proceed for two years longer, but this will be the last year of that funding. MASSA will officially close later in September, but its patients will have another option for free asbestos screenings through LAMP.