In the summer of 2015, the local area’s two congressmen came to the Poughkeepsie Journal building to announce legislation prioritizing Lyme disease research.
The legislation had passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. The vote was 344-77.
“Free beer doesn’t get 344 votes,” U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-Cold Spring, quipped.
Little did Maloney and U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, the Republican from Kinderhook who had authored the Lyme research language, know that a long battle to get it through the Senate lay ahead.
After concerns about other provisions of the bill were resolved, the Senate voted in favor, 94-5. Both of New York’s Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, supported the measure.
President Obama has said he will sign it into law.
The 21st Century Cures Act includes provisions to create a group ensuring coordination among federal agencies to maximize research priorities for Lyme.
The group would be made up of federal agencies and “non-federal partners,” including Lyme physicians and patient advocates.
It would also require the secretary of health and human services to consult with the group and create a strategic plan within three years.
That plan will need to include a proposal for improving outcomes of Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases, including progress related to chronic or persistent symptoms, infections and co-infections.
“I want to thank the many patients and advocates who have partnered with me these past few years to advance this legislation,” Gibson said in a statement. “Their voices made a difference.”
“My neighbors in the Hudson Valley know how debilitating Lyme disease can be,” Maloney said, “and I’m proud that by working across the aisle with Congressman Chris Gibson we have passed the most important piece of Lyme disease legislation ever written.”
Schumer said the legislation will enhance and improve prevention, education, treatment and vaccine development efforts.
Gillibrand, who had co-sponsored legislation in the Senate with language similar to Gibson’s bill, said the law ensures a diversity of perspectives will be represented within the newly established federal Tick-Borne Disease Working Group.
“Our families should be able to enjoy nature without the fear of possibly contracting this disease,” she said.