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A measure sponsored by Assemblywoman Joan Quigley (D-Bergen/Hudson) establishing a statewide Parkinson’s disease public awareness and education program was approved by a key Assembly panel on Monday.

“Parkinson’s Disease is a debilitating, painful and incurable neurological disorder that can seriously disrupt and end the lives of those who suffer from it,” said Quigley. “New Jersey, with the largest concentration of pharmaceutical companies of any state in the nation and its top academic research facilities, is a center for Parkinson’s disease research and treatment. We need to couple these efforts with increased public awareness and education in order to improve treatment and prevention of the disease.”

This bill (A-2599), which is designated the “Parkinson’s Disease Public Awareness and Education Act,” was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.

The measure would require the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services to develop and educational awareness program that includes the following:

  • A public education and outreach campaign to promote Parkinson’s disease awareness and education, including, but not limited to, the cause and nature of the disease; diagnostic procedures and appropriate indications for their use; lifestyle issues relating to how a person copes with Parkinson’s disease, such as nutrition, diet and physical exercise; environmental safety and injury prevention; and the availability of Parkinson’s disease diagnostic and treatment services in the community;
  • Educational materials to be made available to consumers through local boards of health, physicians, hospitals and clinics;
  • Professional education programs for health care providers to assist them in understanding research findings and the subjects set forth in the bill;
  • Educational programs for other personnel, including judicial staff, police officers, fire fighters and social services and emergency medical service providers, to assist them in recognizing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and understanding how to respond to the needs of persons with the disease in the course of performing their duties, including dissemination of the informational booklet prepared pursuant to the bill; and
  • A list of current providers of specialized services for the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Quigley noted that 1.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, 50,000 more are diagnosed nationally each year, and another 1.5 million people have the disease but have never seen a neurologist, according to the American Parkinson’s Disease Association. Furthermore, Parkinson’s disease requires the expenditure of some $25 billion per year, including medical treatments, disability payments and lost productivity.

In 2000, the Legislature designated April of each year as “Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month” in New Jersey, directing the Governor to annually issue a proclamation calling upon public officials and citizens to observe the month with appropriate activities and programs.

Additionally, the bill directs DHSS, in consultation with the New Jersey Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association and the Movement Disorders Center at UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, to prepare an informational booklet in English and Spanish which provides information about the symptoms and treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

DHSS would also be required to make a supply of the booklets available to all licensed health care facilities engaged in the diagnosis or treatment of Parkinson’s disease, as well as to health care professionals, community health centers and members of the public upon their request. DHSS would also be required to publicize and make the booklet available to the maximum extent possible, including making electronic copies available on its website in English and Spanish.

The measure was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.