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Working Together, Working for Life: Counties Come Together to Save Lives through Organ and Tissue Donation

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September 22, 2015

New York State Association of Counties (NYSAC) and New York Alliance for Donation (NYAD) are joining together to launch a statewide collaborative campaign, "Working Together, Working for Life," to raise awareness of the importance of organ and tissue donation. The two organizations are partnering together to take BOLD steps to help save and improve the lives of thousands of New Yorkers in dire need of transplants. 

Nationally, the current waiting list for organs has reached over 122,000 people. Every 13 minutes another person is added to the list and an average of 21 people die each day waiting. In New York alone, the number of men, women and children waiting for a transplant is over 10,000. To make matters worse, New York recently moved from 49th to 50th in the state-by-state rankings with regard to the percentage of eligible residents registered as organ and tissue donors. Every 17 hours, a New Yorker dies waiting for an organ transplant. While surveys show that 83% of New Yorkers support organ and tissue donation, only 24% of residents are registered organ and tissue donors.

I am frequently asked, "What is it about New Yorkers that we have one of the worst registries in the country with the lowest percentage of our population signed up as organ, eye and tissue donors?" The immediate assumption is that New Yorkers are not altruistic or that they are less compassionate than residents in other states. I wholeheartedly disagree with this assertion. New Yorkers are kind, generous and caring people that are more than willing to help one another. When I compare New York to other states with successful registries, I see a long and troubling list of administrative barriers that prevent New Yorkers from easily documenting their decision to save a life. I have also witnessed the positive impact support and awareness on the part of the communities and the highest levels of government can have on this issue. The decision to support organ and tissue donation needs to be shared and communicated throughout New York State.

This is where NYS County governments play a key role in raising awareness of this lifesaving issue with New Yorkers. County officials interact with the public on this subject through local DMV offices, local boards of elections, departments of health, naturalization ceremonies and veteran's programs. These are all opportunities to provide individuals with information on how they can help their fellow New Yorkers by signing up as an organ and tissue donor. Working together, we can increase New York's organ and tissue donation rates and save lives.
This issue can impact anyone at any time. No one really knows when we, or a loved one, may need a transplant to survive, but to these families New York's struggle to make organs available for donation is a high stakes reality that affects all of their lives. With the launch of the 'Working Together, Working for Life' campaign, County Government can play a tremendous lifesaving role.

NYAD is providing tool kits, training modules and educational materials to support county governments as we embark on this exciting campaign. These resources will be made available to participating counties online, including but not limited to: social media content, facts about donation, a listing of annual observances, county by county data, educational modules for employees, samples of newsletter content, emails to employees and community organizations, press releases, county resolutions, and information on how to request materials and volunteers for in-office awareness and events. To access these materials and join in the campaign, please go to, www.alliancefordonation.org/NYSAC. These resources will be expanded upon and updated on a regular basis, so please make sure to visit frequently. NYSAC and NYAD are also in the process of developing specific programs for County Governments to help shape public opinion on the benefits of organ and tissue donation. Stay tuned!

Thank you to the leadership and members of NYSAC for taking this BOLD step to saving the lives of more than 10,000 New Yorkers! "Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it." -W. H. Murray

For more information on what your county can do to help save the lives of the more than 10,000 New Yorkers currently on the organ transplant wait list, visit the Working Together, Working for Life Resource Center at www.alliancefordonation.org/NYSAC or call NYAD directly at 518-326-3237.

By Aisha Tator, Executive Director, New York Alliance for Donation