Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) addressed a group of New Jersey patients, physicians and advocates today about federal efforts to combat Lyme disease at the New Jersey Lyme Disease Educational Seminar held by the Lyme Disease Association (LDA) April 25.
Doug Kahn, a Holmdel parent of a child who contracted Lyme disease and himself active in Lyme disease advocacy, said Smith told a packed house of over 250 people about his legislative efforts to help those suffering with Lyme disease and the need for clear diagnostic and treatment guidelines.
“Congressman Smith spoke with tremendous sincerity and compassion,” Kahn said. “At the conclusion of Congressman Smith’s presentation, a thunderous applause arose from the audience in appreciation for his work. I personally am enormously grateful for Congressman Smith’s efforts. He is a man of true integrity, always working to do the best for others.”
According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 363,000 Americans suffer from Lyme disease each year. Some 95 percent of Lyme disease cases were reported from 14 states, of which New Jersey was fourth highest.
“This seminar is especially timely and necessary,” Smith said. “Tick-borne diseases continue to expand to new areas and are increasing in frequency in the already hard hit areas. Lyme and other tick-borne diseases have been devastating to our neighbors and communities here in New Jersey.”
The free educational seminar was held at Monmouth Church of Christ in Tinton Falls and was designed to inform the public about Lyme disease prevention and treatment, as well as policy initiatives to assist persons with Lyme.
“I have learned a great deal about Lyme from those who have suffered from it,” said Smith. “We need to take this message to the Infectious Disease Society of America and the agencies that continue to block help for chronic Lyme patients.”
The event hosted a panel of several speakers, including prominent Lyme physicians Dr. Robert Bransfield, who spoke about the ongoing controversy surrounding Lyme disease, and Dr. Jodie DaShore, who discussed holistic approaches to treating Lyme. Participants also heard from Patricia Smith (no relation), president of the LDA, as well as Lyme patients and their families who spoke about their personal experiences with Lyme and their difficulties in finding and paying for effective Lyme treatment.
This Congress, Smith has introduced legislation designed to benefit Lyme patients and advocates by providing them with greater influence in federal decision making on issues surrounding Lyme disease research and patient care.
“My legislation was drafted with assistance from the grassroots Lyme community,” Smith said.
H.R. 665 tasks the Secretary of Health and Human Services with establishing a Tick-Borne Diseases Advisory Committee to enhance coordination and improve communication among federal agencies, medical professionals and patients. The committee will operate in a transparent and open manner, advising the Secretary on Lyme disease policy and submitting annual reports on the Committee’s activities.
Smith, along with Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), currently serves as co-chair of the House Lyme Disease Caucus, a bipartisan organization dedicated to educating Members of Congress and staff about Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Smith also held the first ever congressional hearing on Lyme before the global health subcommittee, which he chairs.
The Lyme Disease Association is headquartered in Smith’s district in Jackson Township, Ocean County, N.J.