Oklahoma is now the third state in the nation to have an official caucus to help develop and pass legislation dealing with cancer research, prevention and treatment. Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee and Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-OKC are co-chairs of the newly formed caucus.
The lawmakers met earlier this week with officials from the American Cancer Society and the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Steele said additional members will be named to the caucus before it meets again in September. Other lawmakers attending Tuesday’s organizational meeting included Sen. Nancy Riley, R-Tulsa, Rep. Marian Cooksey, R-Edmond and Rep. Trebor Worthen, R-OKC.
“I think it’s a great way to raise awareness and bring attention to the issue of cancer,” said Steele, chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee. “It gives us another tool in our arsenal to help fight the battle against cancer.”
Sen. Debbe Leftwich co-authored legislation in 2004 to ensure that more Oklahoma women would have access to cervical and breast cancer treatment. She also lost her husband, Sen. Keith Leftwich, to cancer in 2003.
“Like thousands of other Oklahomans, I know first-hand how devastating this disease can be,” Leftwich said. “It’s something you never really get over. But you can use that experience to help others—that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is the number one health concern among Oklahomans. Estimates show that in 2005 alone, more than 18,400 Oklahomans will be diagnosed with cancer and more than 7,600 will die as a result.
Paula Warlick is the Oklahoma grassroots coordinator for the American Cancer Society.
“We have more than 10,000 grassroots volunteers in Oklahoma and they’re all dedicated to eliminating cancer,” Warlick said. “We’re looking forward to working with the Cancer Caucus to take the issue of cancer head on and make a difference for the future of each Oklahoman.”
The bipartisan Cancer Caucus will ultimately include additional members from the House and Senate, health care professionals and individuals from the private sector who have dealt with cancer.
For additional information, contact Rep. Kris Steele at 405-557-7345, Sen. Debbe Leftwich at 405-521-5557 or Paula Warlick at 1-888-376-1725.