PRESS RELEASE FROM CONGRESSMAN SMITH’S OFFICE
Lyme Disease Association Backs Legislation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Continuing the fight to better assist patients and families impacted by Lyme disease, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) announced the re-introduction of his bipartisan bill to establish a federal Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee to better deliver results for those living with this debilitating illness.
“Lyme disease has been particularly devastating in New Jersey, where it is estimated that over 59,000 individuals have reported cases of Lyme over the past 15 years,” Smith said. According to recent data, 95 percent of Lyme disease cases were reported from 14 states, and New Jersey was fourth highest.
“We need to redouble our efforts to help Lyme patients and their families in need of real solutions,” said Smith, co-chair of the House Lyme Disease Caucus who has worked on issues impacting the Lyme community since the early 1990s. “Lyme rates are increasing all over the country, yet many are unaware of the seriousness of this disease and its potentially far-reaching effects. If not diagnosed and treated early, Lyme disease can lead to chronic illness and can affect every system in the body.”
Smith and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) are co-chairs of the House Lyme Disease Caucus—a bipartisan organization dedicated to educating Members of Congress and staff about Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, as well as advancing initiatives that are designed to help the estimated 363,000 Americans who suffer from Lyme disease each year.
“This bill would ensure that experts and patients have a seat at the table when decisions are made impacting Lyme disease research, diagnostics and treatments,” Smith said.
Specifically, HR 665 tasks the Secretary of Health and Human Services with establishing a Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee to enhance coordination and improve communication among federal agencies, medical professionals, and patients. The committee will operate in a transparent and open manner, advising the Secretary on Lyme disease policy and submitting annual reports on the Committee’s activities.
The Lyme Disease Association (LDA) is headquartered in Smith’s district in Jackson Township Ocean County N.J. Pat Smith, President of the LDA, commended the legislation.
“The LDA is pleased to have legislation introduced into the House which provides a tick-borne diseases advisory committee which is governed by FACA rules to ensure transparency and accountability and which provides at least 4 people at the table who represent the patient community: 2 from patient groups and 2 patients themselves or family members,” said Pat Smith (no relation to Rep. Smith). “It also provides a seat for at least two health care providers, with relevant experience providing care for individuals with a broad range of acute and chronic tick-borne diseases.”
In 2013, the CDC announced what Smith and the Lyme community already knew: only 10 percent of cases were being reported and the actual number of Lyme cases is well over 300,000—not 30,000 as CDC had previously insisted. This report has heightened the urgency for a coordinated, targeted effort to assist Lyme patients.
“Designing the process to better focus on improving outcomes after a Lyme diagnosis will not only ensure more effective policies, but will help to raise the quality of life for patients and assist the loved ones who care for them,” Smith said.
Smith held the first ever congressional hearing on Lyme before the global health subcommittee he chairs, which focused on the disease in the U.S. and other nations.