State Sen. Pam Helming among those pushing for additional dollars to battle tick-borne diseases

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show state and local health departments reporting more cases than ever of tick-borne diseases, including Lyme. But this year’s state budget didn’t include $1 million on the state Senate wish list — passed in its “one-house budget.” Some senators had asked for even more.

State Sen. Pam Helming, R-Canandaigua, who works with local advocates such as the Ontario County Lyme Disease Support Group, sought $2 million to take action on a series of bills.

“Lyme and other tick-borne diseases continue to be on the rise, and I have been working hard to secure important funding and resources for our communities affected by this growing public health issue,” stated Helming, who advocated for the $1 million in last year’s budget that went for education and research. A former member of the Senate’s Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases, Helming added “we must do more.”

“Lyme and other tick-borne diseases impact thousands of individuals and families across our region. We have to continue to fight for resources for our communities — including children, who are at the highest risk of Lyme disease exposure, as well as our hardworking farmers whose livelihoods depend on working outside all day.”

Helming co-sponsored several Senate bills: S.1247 to establish grants to support graduate medical education in Lyme and tick-borne diseases; S.1306 to create a pilot program for Lyme and tick-borne disease testing in children; S.1307 to establish requirements for reporting Lyme and tick-borne diseases after death; and S.1345 to require the New York State health care quality and cost containment commission to issue a report on coverage for chronic Lyme disease.

Helming is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee chaired by Sen. Jen Metzger, a Democrat who represents a district in the Catskills. Metzger stated in a release her advocacy for funds to fight Lyme disease and disappointment that those funds ended on the chopping block in this year’s budget. Metzger has personal experience, having been diagnosed with Lyme disease five times.

“The last time, I became ill so suddenly that I had to go to the emergency room, where the admitting nurse took one look at me, before I even spoke, and said ‘I hate Lyme.’ Even so, I consider myself lucky: Many people are suffering with debilitating long-term effects of chronic Lyme disease …” stated Metzger. “As Chair of the Agriculture Committee, addressing this public health crisis is a top priority of mine. This budget decision was not the last word on this issue, and I will continue to fight for funding to prevent and treat this horrible disease.”