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Letter to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

oday, Congressman Scott Murphy (NY-20) sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging her to update the list of communicable diseases as required by the recently-signed Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009. This legislation requires the HHS Secretary to update the list of communicable diseases in order to notify firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical responders in the event of exposure to a communicable disease. This provision protects emergency responders by enabling them to know whether or not they have been exposed to a communicable disease.

"All across Upstate New York, firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical responders put themselves in harm's way every day," said Rep. Murphy. "I am urging Secretary Sebelius to update the list of communicable diseases so that our emergency responders know exactly what they come in contact with while on duty. Our emergency responders protect us each day, and it's our job to protect them while they are serving and volunteering in our communities."

According to P.L. 111-87 of the Ryan White Act of 2009, the Department of Health and Human Services is required to update the list of communicable diseases, for which notification would be required, 180 days after being signed into law. Without an updated list from the Secretary, the law cannot be implemented and the safety and health of our emergency responders remains in jeopardy.

"As an EMT, firefighter and police officer, this is an issue that affects me and all of my colleagues greatly," said Jeff Glam, past Chief of the Milan Fire Department. "As a volunteer in my community, I am exposed to many different elements and possible diseases, and do not want to bring one home that my family could potentially be exposed to. This should not be a risk of volunteering in the community, and I applaud the Congressman for taking action."

"Add me to the list of people supporting the push to ensure that the federal government should do as is mandated to protect first responders," said Warren County Sheriff Bud York. "The Ryan White Act has been signed into law, and this should be done."

"The Ryan White protections expired a number of years ago, and there was never a corollary level of protection offered in New York to first responders," said Mike Mcevoy, EMS Coordinator for Saratoga County. "Since the protections expired, emergency responders are not required to be notified when they bring in a patient with an infectious disease that could potentially harm them, and their family. We should have a new, updated list to protect emergency responders. In essence, the law has been signed into effect, but has no affect."

After meeting with first responders from across Upstate New York to discuss their continuing needs, Congressman Murphy sent the following letter to Secretary Sebelius:

June 28, 2010

Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009, signed into law by President Obama on October 30, 2009, was well received by the emergency medical service, fire department, and police department communities of Upstate New York.

The Ryan White Act of 2009 renewed a provision of the 1990 Ryan White legislation requiring notification of firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical responders in the event of exposure to a communicable disease. This provision protected emergency responders by allowing them the opportunity to know whether or not they had been exposed to a communicable disease. It is also an added protection to the community, ensuring that subsequent patients would not be at risk for exposure by EMS technicians, fire fighters, or police officers responding to an emergency.

According to the Ryan White Act of 2009, the Department of Health and Human Services is required to update the list of communicable diseases for which notification would be required 180 days after being signed into law. However, it is my understanding that over the last seven months this list has not been updated.

I hope that you will join me in support of the emergency responder community by updating the list of communicable diseases as soon as possible. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Scott Murphy
Member of Congress


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