Thursday, March 26, 2015

Greater Northwest Activists Take On DC!

Two weeks ago, along with 350 other activists, staff, and volunteers from National MS Society chapters across the country, our Greater Northwest Chapter delegation traveled to Washington, DC to participate in the Society’s annual Public Policy Conference.

Our activists ready to meet with their members of Congress
We bring a small delegation of volunteers each year, and in our selection process we prioritize engaging both new and current activists and ensuring that key congressional districts are represented. 

This year, our six volunteers advocated for three issues:
  1. Funding for MS research through the National Institutes of Health and the MS Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program;
  2. The “Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act,” to make it easier for people with MS to access the mobility devices they need; and 
  3. The “Advancing Research for Neurological Diseases Act / 21st Century Cures Initiative,” to collect data on neurological conditions like MS to help us better understand the disease and obtain more accurate incidence and prevalence rates.

A Society delegation presents Senator Patty Murray (center) with her award.
One of the highlights of the trip included honoring Washington Senator Patty Murray with Senator of the Year, the Society’s highest honor for elected officials. The Chapter's Washington Government Relations Committee Chair, Nora Gibson, presented the award, and recognized Senator Murray’s work as a powerful advocate for families affected by MS. We are certainly proud to have the Senator’s work and the work of our chapter recognized at the national conference!

MS Activists Nora Gibson and Steve Ehlert
On Wednesday, March 11th, our activists conducted 16 visits with their members of Congress. Our Washington State activists had in-person meetings with both of their Senators, and activists Gayle Rundstrom, Steve and Vicki Ehlert, and Nora Gibson shared powerful stories with our Representatives. Thanks to the work of activist Doug Toelle, we received a commitment from Alaska Representative Don Young’s office to be a co-sponsor for the neurological disease data bill (H.R. 292). In addition, Montana activist Lora Waid forged new connections with staff members in the office of Representative Ryan Zinke, a freshman legislator from Montana. 

Rep. Zinke's staff with activists Lora & Doug
Lawmakers see us as a credible source of information for what matters to the MS community. Of the 18 members of Congress that represent our Chapter area, six are members of the Congressional MS Caucus—demonstrating their commitment to taking action on issues related to our work.  Together, our legislative champions, terrific volunteers, and online network of MS activists are playing a critical role in bettering the lives of people affected by MS.

Congratulations to our activists for a successful trip and for bringing awareness of key issues affecting people living with MS to our members of Congress. Thank you for your commitment to our work and for serving as dedicated leaders in the MS movement. You help us support the Society’s goals to shape federal policies and programs to better meet the needs of people living with MS. 

Washington MS Activists with Senator Maria Cantwell

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