WARWICK-The National Multiple Sclerosis Society honored Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) as its 2010 Representative of the Year at the organization's annual Public Policy Conference. The award distinguishes a Member of Congress who has demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication to issues most significantly impacting the lives of people with Multiple Sclerosis, or MS. It represents one of the highest honors the Society awards to public officials.
"We are proud to honor a most deserving recipient of our highest award," said Joyce Nelson, President and CEO of the National MS Society. "Congressman Langevin has shown unwavering leadership for the causes most important to the families we represent. He has been an incredible champion for people living with MS, and we are fortunate to have him as our partner."
As a staunch advocate for programs to improve the lives of families living with chronic, disabling conditions like MS, Langevin has fought for universal access to health care, increased funding for biomedical and stem cell research and a program for lifespan respite care to ease the significant physical, emotional and financial strain on caregivers. Most recently, he introduced the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act to reauthorize and extend the program, which he fought to initiate in 2006 and provides short-term services to help an individual or family take a break from the daily routine and stress of providing car to loved ones with chronic, disabling conditions.
"I join with all the members of the Rhode Island Chapter of the National MS Society, and our partners throughout the country, in expressing our deepest gratitude to Congressman Langevin," said Kathy Mechnig, President of the RI Chapter. "We are pleased and proud that Congressman Langevin is being honored as Representative of the Year by the National MS Society. His support on issues from health reform to biomedical research and relief for caregivers has helped give millions of Americans the voice they deserve in our nation's capital. He has been a tireless advocate for families dealing with the many challenges of chronic disabilities and we are so grateful for his leadership and determination."
"As someone who lives with a disability, I am acutely aware of the opportunities we can create when we join together to make our voices heard," said Langevin as he accepted the award from Nelson at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center. "Your engagement and leadership has never been more important than it is right now. We are facing a serious budget deficit and tremendous pressure to cut programs and services that are vital for individuals with chronic, disabling conditions. However, I truly believe that we can be fiscally responsible while still making stronger investments in areas like biomedical research that will not only create jobs today, but also help us find the treatments and cures of tomorrow."
Langevin pledged to continue working with the Society to increase funding and reauthorize the Lifespan Respite Care program this year. The President recommended $10 million for Lifespan Respite in his FY 2012 budget request, in part due to Langevin's leadership on the issue. In 2009, Rhode Island received a federal grant under this program to help build its network of respite care services. Respite care remains the most frequently requested family support service, providing temporary relief from continuous care giving of family members with disabilities or chronic conditions. It has been shown to provide family caregivers with the relief necessary to maintain their own health, balance work and family, bolster family stability, and avoid or delay more costly nursing home or foster care placements.
"It is vital that we provide individuals and families with every tool at our disposal to ensure self-empowerment and access to health care that will result in a better quality of life," said Langevin. "As you continue to fight for the programs necessary to find treatments, support services, and God willing, a cure for MS, I will continue to be a voice for you on Capitol Hill. At the end of the day, it is our abilities, not our disabilities, that define who we are and what we can accomplish. And together, we can accomplish anything."