RIDGEFIELD, Conn. -- Budget cuts by Gov. Dannell Malloy already are being felt at the Ridgefield Health Department, where money allocated to sustain and expand the town's BLAST Lyme Disease Prevention program recently were rescinded.
"This comes as a tremendous disappointment to all of the patients and health professionals who have worked tirelessly to develop a statewide, community-based Lyme Disease education effort," said Jennifer Reid, BLAST volunteer program coordinator. "The Connecticut Department of Public Health presented a plan that would not only sustain the BLAST program but ensure its use by health departments throughout the state. The legislators loved it and patient advocates were heartened to finally see Lyme disease getting essential attention. Everything was set to roll - literature, power points and health fair displays. Educators working out of local health departments would have been teaching best-practice prevention strategies by spring, when the threat of Lyme ramps up. But it all ended with one red line stroke by the governor. "
Connecticut will be impacted by nearly 30,000 new cases of Lyme disease next year, with most occurring in Fairfield County, the group said. According to the CDC, the total number of people diagnosed with Lyme disease is roughly 10 times higher than the yearly reported number.
Now, Reid is back at the drawing board trying to keep alive a program everyone agrees is more necessary than ever. Last year, the BLAST educators - Reid and a team of trained college students and volunteers - attended more than 30 health fairs and community events.
Reid and her team are asking the Ridgefield Board of Selectmen and the Western Connecticut Council of Governments member towns to consider providing money for this vital effort, which has exceeded the scope of a volunteer project.
Any organizations, residents or businesses interested in helping to support the program can do so online . All donations received through March 31 will go toward saving the BLAST effort. Reid and her team also are asking residents to write to their town leaders to encourage them to give money to the program.
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