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Saratoga County Joins Effort To Register More Organ Donors

Lucas Willard

New York state ranks 49th in the nation for organ and tissue donations. As WAMC’s Lucas Willard reports, Saratoga County is taking steps to boost the state’s ranking.

Outside the Saratoga County Department of Motor Vehicles office at the Wilton Mall, officials gathered to discuss a new campaign to get more New Yorkers to sign up to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor.

As part of the campaign, new literature and electronic messages will be displayed to encourage people to donate. County Clerk Craig Hayner said the goal is make sure those coming into the DMV are signing up to be an organ donor.

“Right now every eight years you renew your license and so that would be a time that would be naturally prompted through the process as someone does their transaction. So we have these cards here now, we’ll also be promoting it on our television screens, and we’ll be promoting that year round,” said Hayner.

The New York State Association of Counties is also working with the New York State Alliance for Donation on the “Working Together, Working for Life” campaign.

NYSAC Executive Director Stephen Acquario says a new law has already helped boost the number of registered organ and tissue donors at the DMV.

“So the question was asked ‘Would you like to be an organ donor?’ The licensee could chose to just not answer it, leave it blank. Those forms were processed. That law was changed just recently requiring a yes, no, not at this time.”

Aisha Tator, Executive Director of the New York State Alliance for Donation, says New York ranks 49th in the nation in part due to the relatively difficult process of signing up donors. Drivers are only required to renew their license every eight years and those seeking a driver’s license under 18 are not asked to be a donor.

She said New York also does not have an easy way to become a donor online. 

“We do not have a dedicated website to enroll in the registry. You can go through the MyDMV website or you can go through the New York State Department of Health. Both of those processes are extremely long.”

Deb Gara’s late husband was an organ and tissue donor. Gara said while it may be difficult for some to chose to sign up, those on the other side of the coin will receive the ultimate gift.

“If you’re one of those people that’s waiting for an organ, it’s giving them the most selfless gift. The gift of life,” said Gara.

Saratoga County ranks second in the state for organ and tissue donation. This week the county passed the resolution to support organ donation. Saratoga Board of Supervisors Chair Matthew Veitch.

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