Coalition looks to be ‘go-to’ Lyme group

One of three local organizations aiming to educate the public and reduce the incidence of Lyme Disease told the Susquehanna County commissioners last week they want to be the “go to” group for seminars, information and, most importantly, tax deductible donations.
Karen Mitchell, a member of the board of directors of the Lyme Disease Coalition and a Lyme Disease patient for over 10 years, told the commissioners that hers is the only group with a 501(c)(3) tax exempt certification.
“Everywhere we go people are coming up to us. They’ve either been sick themselves or they have family members sick,” Mitchell said.
“It’s chilling. Everywhere I’m stopping and talking to people. Everybody’s ill,” Mitchell said.
“As far as I know we’re the only 501(c)(3) that can actually take funds,” fellow board member Colleen Schake told commissioners during last week’s regularly scheduled meeting.
“We’re kind of hoping that we can maybe work it out somehow so that we’re maybe the ‘to go’ to as far as fundraising and these types of things and we can help set up some of these speaking arrangements and things that are happening,” Schake said.
Mitchell’s group and its three member board made no request for action on the part of commissioners and appeared before them on a strictly informational basis.
“I think it’s a great thing that they’ve moved forward to make it a 501(c)(3),” noted commissioner MaryAnn Warren.
According to state public health statistics Lyme disease cases in Pennsylvania continue to rise making them some of the highest in the country.
According to statistics provided by the state Department of Health, Pennsylvania has led the nation in confirmed cases of Lyme disease for three straight years and for the first time deer ticks have been found in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.
The department’s 2014 Lyme disease report released in June showed 7,400 cases of Lyme disease compared with 5,900 in 2013, a 25 percent increase over the prior year. Similar statistics put out by the CDC show 7,351 cases in 2015. Earlier this year the department predicted Pennsylvania would again lead the nation in Lyme cases.
Some groups consider the CDC’s estimate of 300,000 new cases nationwide in 2012 too low.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is caught when an infected tick bites you. It is most common in the Northeast, the Upper Midwest and Pacific Northwest stats. Flu-like symptoms, bodily aches and pains can begin between between 2 and 30 days from infection.
Three groups locally provide information on Lyme Disease, Mitchell’s group, The Montrose Lyme Support and the Susquehanna County Tick-Bourne Disease Task Force.
Most recently, the Montrose Lyme Support group held a day long seminar Sept. 30 at the new Susquehanna County Library.
“I just think if we just merge things together it would be more beneficial to the county,” Schake said.
In other business, commissioners:
*Unanimously approved a proclamation designating October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Susquehanna County.
*Agreed to reach out to gas companies to see if emergency services could get access to holding ponds used to store water in emergencies.
*Acting as the county Salary Board on the motion of Coroner Anthony J. Conarton, commissioners unanimously approved the creation of a non-union, full time, $30,000 a year forensic case coordinator/deputy coroner position. After a six month probationary period the salary would raise to $31,500 with a top out at $34,000. The job eliminates the current administrative assistant/deputy coroner/administrative position.

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