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NY Senate approves Lyme-fighting bills

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A three-bill package was passed in the Senate on Monday, with the intentions of increasing access and accessibility to prevention and treatment methods for Lyme and tick-borne diseases in New York. Lindsey Riback / Albany Bureau

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ALBANY — The state Senate approved legislation this week meant to fight Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, but its prospects in the Assembly are uncertain.

The three-bill package, sponsored by Sen. Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, Dutchess County, includes measures that would require the state to come up with best practices for protecting residences from ticks, force a report on long-term insurance coverage and provide grants for educating medical professionals on tick-borne illnesses.

New York was home to the third-highest number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the country with 3,252 in 2015, trailing only Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The Hudson Valley, in particular, is a trouble spot: No county in the country saw more cases of Lyme disease from 2000 through 2015 than Dutchess County, according to the CDC.

“Nearly everyone in the Hudson Valley knows someone whose life has been forever changed by Lyme and tick-borne diseases,” Serino said in a statement Monday. “Awareness is the key to prevention, and today, we put the spotlight on Lyme and send a clear message to those who are suffering that we remain committed to combating the spread of tick-borne diseases.”

The three bills take different approaches to battling Lyme disease.

One would allow the state health commissioner to award grants for graduate medical education regarding Lyme and tick-borne diseases. It also would designate specific organizations as centers for Lyme and tick-borne disease excellence.

The second would require a state board to put out a report on the impact of requiring insurers to provide long-term coverage for tick-borne illnesses, which they’re not currently required to do.

Those bills are sponsored in the Assembly by Didi Barrett, D-Hudson, Columbia County. Both were passed in the Senate last year but didn’t get a vote in the Assembly.

The third bill, which doesn’t have an Assembly sponsor, would require the state Department of Environmental Conservation to create guidelines for best practices to protect residential properties against ticks.

Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature approved a bill creating a tick-borne disease prevention program and creating age-appropriate materials to distribute to students.

Under the law, schools aren’t mandated to teach Lyme disease prevention techniques, but the state is required to provide the guidelines should they choose to incorporate it in their curriculum.

Includes reporting by Albany Bureau staff writer Jon Campbell.

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