Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Off to Olympia we go!

The National MS Society will be headed to Olympia on Monday, January 30th for our annual Day of Activism. I thought I'd share a few thoughts on it before we go down there...

The National MS Society brings people together several times a year for a number of purposes. We come together to celebrate, to raise money for research, and to laugh and even cry together. We join together in celebration at 600 walks around the country, we unite 100,000 cyclists to raise money for a cure, and we come together every month to share our lives at over 40 self help groups just in Washington state.

When people join together, we can do some amazing things. We’ve raised over $686 million to fund research to stop the disease, restore lost function, and end MS forever. We’ve helped the 400,000 people living with MS to better understand their disease and we’ve reached out to the millions of friends, family members, and loved ones who have been affected by MS. In the Pacific Northwest, we’ve raised awareness about MS and now, because of our efforts, you’ll find that a LOT of people know that we have a higher incidence of MS here in the northwest than almost anywhere else in the country.

But for our Day of Activism, we have a different purpose. We come to Olympia because the MS community in Washington needs our help. And as we do in all our advocacy work, we stand united as the three chapters of the National MS Society with a presence in Washington – the Greater Northwest Chapter covering western and central Washington, the Inland Northwest Chapter covering eastern Washington, and the Oregon Chapter covering Vancouver and Clark County.

Due to state budget cuts over the past three years, at least 1800 people with MS have lost some of their health care benefits and unless we act, they will lose a lot more. Washington state is facing a $1.5 billion budget shortfall – and this is on top of the $12 billion shortfall that we’ve already dealt with in prior years.

The legislature is faced with some difficult choices and legislators don’t like the choices that they will have to make. With ¾ of the state’s budget spent on education, corrections, and health care, the cuts to be made won’t be popular. Our job is to tell legislators that the MS community can’t bear the burden of these cuts.

You and I know that MS is an expensive disease. It stops people from working, often in the prime of your life, and the treatments to stop the progression of MS aren’t cheap. Many people with MS rely on the safety net provided by state and federal taxpayers – Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security are no strangers to the MS community. When our elected officials need to make difficult decisions to balance the budget, it’s our job to remind them of the needs of voters in their communities and in every community, many of those voters have MS or have a loved one with MS.

We can reach out to legislators in a number of ways. We can send emails, write letters, make phone calls, but the best way to get your message across to anyone is a face to face meeting. And in a tough budget environment that our state is facing, it’s the people who shout the loudest and make the most compelling argument who are going to get heard. So we gather in Olympia to speak up and be heard.

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