State Senate approves Lyme disease awareness legislation co-sponsored by O'Mara ~ Measures expected to become law

June 01, 2016

Senator O'Mara serves as a member of the Senate Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases.

Those who suffer from Lyme disease can endure years of frustration seeking effective diagnosis and treatment. We want to raise awareness and enhance prevention and treatment strategies.

Albany, N.Y., June 1—The New York State Senate has unanimously approved legislation co-sponsored by Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) to bolster the state’s efforts to raise public awareness on the prevention of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

O’Mara, who serves as a member of the Senate Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases, said that the legislation is being approved as regional concerns about Lyme and other tick-borne diseases have dramatically increased over the past few years.

“We’re hopeful that we can encourage and implement state- and federal-level action plans and a comprehensive response.  Those who suffer from Lyme disease can endure years of frustration seeking effective diagnosis and treatment.  We want to raise awareness and enhance prevention and treatment strategies,” said O’Mara.  “It’s a debilitating disease that’s a major concern for everyone who enjoys the outdoors.  It’s a serious public health threat that continues to demand our attention, and action.”   

The legislation (S5803) would require the state Department of Health (DOH) to design, develop and disseminate an aggressive, comprehensive and statewide public awareness, education and prevention campaign to reduce the public’s exposure to Lyme and other tick-borne infectious diseases  – recognizing the effectiveness and importance of early education and prevention in preventing the spread of these diseases.

The legislation has bipartisan support in the Legislature, where it’s sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblywoman Didi Barrett (D-Poughkeepsie) and has been advanced to the Assembly floor for final legislative action. It must be approved by the Assembly and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo before becoming law.

O’Mara is also co-sponsoring legislation (S5804), which has been approved by the Assembly and advanced to the Senate floor where it's expected to soon be given final legislative approval, that would complement the statewide DOH awareness campaign by requiring the development of age-appropriate instructional materials and tools that will be made available to schools and libraries to help reach school-age children with the awareness and prevention message. Supporters of the legislation cite an increasing demand from school and libraries for instructional materials geared towards children.

The Senate created its 17-member task force in October 2013. This year it’s being chaired by Senator Sue Serino of the Hudson Valley, a region where the problem has been particularly acute for years.  O’Mara said that the task force intends to keep working to enact additional legislative recommendations to enhance the detection, prevention and treatment of tick-borne illnesses in New York.

Approximately 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease annually, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  More than 450 new cases of Lyme disease were reported in New York State alone last year.  That number is expected to continue rising as disease-laden ticks spread to more and more regions of the state, including the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes.

To request a copy of a new Senate brochure, "Know the Facts About  Lyme Disease and other Tick-Borne Illnesses," email omara@nysenate.gov.