Assemblymember Barrett Passes Legislation to Combat the Spread of Lyme Disease

Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-Columbia, Dutchess) announced the passage of three pieces of legislation she authored that focus on efforts to curb the spread of Lyme disease. Specifically, the bills provide students and teachers with appropriate instructional materials, raise awareness of simple prevention methods and create guidelines to help residents keep ticks away from their home (A.8105-AA.8106-A, and A.8110-A).

"Raising awareness about the prevention, risks, and signs of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases is essential to fighting this devastating epidemic in our region and across the state," said Assemblymember Barrett. "As we begin the summer outdoor season it is critical that people learn how to properly protect themselves."

The occurrence of Lyme disease in the Hudson Valley has reached crisis level. Statistics show Dutchess County with the highest rate of Lyme disease in New York State, while Columbia and Dutchess counties are ranked first and second respectively for the highest number of cases per capita in the country1. These facts are troubling and as Lyme disease cases continue to spread, it is vital to identify methods of preventing exposure to the disease, Barrett added.

Educating young people is key to curbing the spread of any tick-borne illness. By directing the Commissioner of Education along with the Commissioners of Health and Environmental Conservation to develop age-appropriate, free instructional tools and materials on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, Assemblymember Barrett’s legislation will help raise awareness by placing materials directly in the hands of our youth at schools and local libraries (A.8105-A).

Homeowners, too, need a reliable source of information to turn to when looking for answers on how to best protect their property from ticks. Assemblymember Barrett authored legislation that will direct the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation to develop guidelines for best practices in treating residential properties for tick prevention and management (A.8110-A). This bill works to educate consumers on land care practices, as well as what ingredients to look for in tick repellent products, including organics that can best protect their homes and yards.

Additionally, Assemblymember Barrett sponsored a measure that will require the Department of Health to design a Lyme and tick-borne disease prevention program. Under current law, the Department of Health must conduct education and outreach programs for a variety of diseases and disorders. This bill will add Lyme to that list (A.8106-A).

“Because our children spend so much time exploring the outdoors, and because they may not know how to identify a tick, let alone alert their parents should they find one, they are especially vulnerable when it comes to contracting Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases (TBDs),” said Senator Serino, who Chairs the Senate’s Taskforce on Lyme and TBDs. “Early education and prevention are key. These diseases are especially dangerous if they go undetected for long periods of time, so it is critical that we give our kids the tools they need to recognize a tick and teach them what to do should they find one. This bill is about empowering our young people by giving them the information they need to keep themselves safe when they’re enjoying the outdoors.”

Barrett has been a staunch advocate for Lyme legislation that ensures patients receive quality treatment. She authored a law that improved the care of those suffering from Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses by allowing physicians to prescribe long-term antibiotic therapy to Lyme disease patients (Ch. 532 of 2014). Barrett is also a sponsor of legislation that would require health insurers to provide coverage for long term medical care of Lyme disease; the measure would also establish a tick-borne illness research and education fund, allowing taxpayers to make donations that help support research, detection, treatment and education (A.1277).

“individuals and families across our state are struggling terribly from the effects of Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses. We need to do all we can to both support patients and curb the diseases’ spread,” Barrett added.

In addition to the Lyme legislation, Assemblymember Barrett introduced a resolution proclaiming May 2016 as Lyme Disease Awareness Month in the State of New York which was adopted by the state Legislature (K.1310). The resolution encourages public awareness of the effects and treatments of Lyme, as well as symptoms that mimic and can sometimes be misdiagnosed as mental illness, depression, nutritional deficiencies or Alzheimer's disease.