New Missouri task force looks for ways to help people with MS

May 28, 2014

Event volunteer at a National Multiple Sclerosis fundraiser held on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012 in Columbia. A representative of the National MS Society from Missouri will serve on the new MS Task Force.
Credit KOMU News

 The Missouri legislature passed a resolution to establish a Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Task Force on May 6.

According to the resolution, Missouri lawmakers created the task force to “identify and address the unmet needs of persons with MS.”

Among many issues, the task force will be looking at MS treatments for Missourians.  Medical expenses for a person with MS can reach almost $70,000 per year. Access to these treatments can also be a concern.

“Finding an MS specialist can be really challenging, especially in rural parts of Missouri,” said Sarah Gentry, Public Policy Manager for the National MS Society.

The group will include legislators, neurologists and representatives from the Department of Health and Senior Services and the National MS Society. The legislature will also appoint two individuals living with MS to the task force.

“I think that this collaboration will bring a variety of perspectives,” Gentry said.

Neurologist and MS Specialist Sudhir Batchu said he believes starting the conversation about MS will be a positive step in helping individuals and families affected by the disease.

But awareness is not the only thing Missourians with MS need.

“We need a lot of physical support as well as cognitive support for the patients that were affected by the disease already and for the people that are going to be diagnosed in the future,” Batchu said.

The resolution creating the task force has no fiscal note, which means the group won’t cost the state anything to operate. But without a budget, the task force isn’t able to implement any changes to the current system.

Despite the lack of power, Gentry said she is optimistic about guiding the state to positive solutions.

“I hope that we can come up with some recommendations that will provide a solid path for finding new ways to help folks with MS access care and live more independently,” Gentry said.

The MS Task Force will announce its recommendation to the Missouri General Assembly by January 15, 2015.