In the final hours of New York’s legislative session, funding was secured to help combat Lyme and tick-borne diseases. But it’s less than initially requested.
The Senate approved a resolution that includes $250,000 for research into Lyme and tick-borne diseases, far less than the $1 million secured in the previous legislative session. Republican Sue Serino is chair of the Senate’s Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases.
“No, I don’t think this I fair. And even $1 million, when you think about that $170 billion budget, like $1 million is a drop in the bucket. I don’t understand, and that’s for all of New York state,” says Serino. “So what I’m doing now is I’m educating people. I’m talking to my new colleagues.”
The $250,000 will be headed to four places: $100,000 is for the Millbrook-based Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, where money can help the Tick Project, a five-year study with Bard College that runs through 2021 that recruited households from two dozen neighborhoods throughout Dutchess County. Cornell Cooperative Extension receives $50,000 for its “Don’t Get Ticked NY” program. Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University Julie Suarez says the funding will allow Cornell to continue surveillance for ticks in high risk areas like schools. Another $50,000 is for Columbia Medical Center’s Lyme and TBD (Tick-Borne Disease) Research Center; and $50,000 for Stony Brook University.
“So it went to great places but it’s not enough money, so we’ll have to keep fighting for it,” Serino says.
Serino, of Dutchess County, says it was difficult to convince new state legislators of the urgency for the funding, though Democratic state Senator Jen Metzger of Ulster County, acknowledges Serino, was on board and fought for the funding.
“$250,000 is certainly going to be extremely helpful to organizations that are doing great work,” Metzger says. “And we need to continue to support that great work both on the prevention side as well as research into Lyme add other tick-borne illnesses and treatments and the like.”
Metzger says it was a tough budget year and everything was a fight. Relatedly, Metzger introduced a bill directing the Department of Agriculture and Markets to conduct a public awareness campaign focused on the farming community, with an emphasis on helping farmers and farmworkers take preventative measures, recognize symptoms and determine available treatments. It awaits the governor’s signature.
“They spend a lot of time outdoors there are a lot of mice on farms, so they’re particularly vulnerable,” says Metzger. “And there hasn’t been an educational and outreach program really directed toward them.”
Metzger says Ag and Markets has a budget to apply to such educational outreach. Serino says she hopes the outreach is not solely online, given rural broadband issues and access overall in the farming communities. Serino sponsored legislation she hopes gets further next session. It relates to reporting Lyme and tick-borne disease infection after death to the Department of Health. It has bipartisan support with Democratic Senator David Carlucci.