The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

November 14, 2012

Groups from area to provide black lung counseling in Nicholas County

As southern West Virginia sees a resurgence of black lung disease, even among younger coal miners, several groups are coming together Thursday to provide free black lung benefits counseling services in Nicholas County, where a new Black Lung Association chapter recently formed.

“We’re coming together in Nicholas County to let active coal miners know they do need to keep track of their health and watch what their lungs are doing to see if they are developing black lung over time,” says Susie Criss, black lung program director at the New River Breathing Center in Scarbro.

“We just want to get the word out about what we can provide the coal miners and let them know we are on their side and make sure their health is good.”

From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the parking lot of the Country Inns and Suites in Summersville, a “Wellness Wagon” staffed with benefits counselors and spirometry technicians will provide free, confidential services to coal miners and others exposed to hazardous dust on the job in the Nicholas County area.

Staff from three area black lung clinics will assist coal miners with questions about filing for benefits, deadlines and baseline breathing tests. Spouses are welcome to stop by as well to pick up information.

West Virginia’s eight statewide black lung clinics were established in 1977 under the Black Lung Benefits Reform Act, and provide benefits counseling services, X-ray and breathing test services and general primary care.

If a patient does begin to show impairment, they offer help in filing state Workers’ Compensation claims or federal black lung benefits.

Black Lung Associations are groups of coal miners and supporters who advocate to help keep laws strong around black lung. The new Nicholas chapter will meet at the Summersville City Hall on Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m.

In the past, Criss says her organization has spread the word about their work by word of mouth, but that it is difficult to reach active coal miners.

“We have access to retired coal miners through UMWA meetings and Black Lung Association meetings, so we wanted to get in an area that has active coal miners, and Nicholas County has that,” she says.

Thursday’s counseling services are a joint effort from the New River Health Black Lung Program, Rainelle Medical Center Black Lung Program, and the Upper Kanawha Valley Medical Center Black Lung Program.

For more information, visit blacklungwv.org or call 304-469-2161.

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