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HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today said the department continues to assist Pennsylvania authorities in dealing with the airplane crash that resulted from Tuesday's terrorist attacks.
"We're making sure the needs of Pennsylvania authorities are met during this recovery effort, and they know more help is only a phone call away," Secretary Thompson said. "HHS has been able to help local efforts with emergency mortuary services, victim identification and family assistance. We're also making mental health assistance available to anyone who's struggling with trauma of this tragedy."
The Office of Emergency Preparedness has deployed a Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) with 35 personnel to the Somerset County area to provide assistance in the retrieval, identification and preparation of those killed in Tuesday's crash. DMORTs may be composed of funeral directors, medical examiners, coroners, pathologists, forensic anthropologists, finger print specialists, forensic odontologists, mental health specialists and other professionals.
A portable morgue with eight more logistics personnel have also been dispatched from Houston, Tex., to Pennsylvania to receive victims' remains as they are recovered. Both the DMORT and the morgue were sent at the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, which is at the crash site.
In addition, HHS has sent four family assistance personnel to Pennsylvania to meet with family members to aid in the identification of victims of the attack. Family assistance personnel discuss with family members information about their loved ones, such as a physical description, what they were wearing, and the name of their family doctor or dentist who could provide copies of medical records. That information is shared with DMORT teams to assist in victim identification.
On Thursday, Secretary Thompson announced steps the department is taking to respond to the emotional and psychological impact of the loss of life and damage caused by the unprecedented terrorist attacks. Secretary Thompson emphasized that the department will help communities address not only their immediate mental health needs but also the expected long-term results of the attacks.
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