The Oklahoma Nurses Association (ONA) is honoring two state lawmakers for their efforts to ensure all Oklahoma women have access to breast and cervical cancer treatment. State Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-OKC, and Rep. Danny Hilliard, D-Sulphur, were authors of House Bill 2552 and will each receive the 2004 Friend of Nursing Award.
According to the association, the Friend of Nursing Award is given to non-nurses who have rendered valuable assistance to the nursing profession. ONA cited the lawmakers’ efforts to secure more funding for breast and cervical cancer treatment and for their support on issues critically important to the health of all Oklahomans.
“The Oklahoma Nurses Association owes Rep. Hilliard and Sen. Leftwich a debt of gratitude for the tremendous work they did in passing HB 2552,” said Jane Nelson, ONA Executive Director. “The lives of uninsured and underinsured Oklahoma women may be saved and thousands of children spared the painful loss of a parent as a direct result of the efforts of these two legislators and Governor and Mrs. Henry. They will leave a legacy of hope and the gift of life to those who would otherwise suffer.”
HB 2552 takes effect November 1, 2004 and ensures Oklahoma will be able to take advantage of federal matching dollars available for breast and cervical cancer treatment. $2.5 million was appropriated to a revolving fund, enabling the state to capture nearly $10 million in federal matching funds.
“More than 2,700 Oklahoma women are diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer each year. Overall, we rank fourteenth in the nation in the number of annual cancer related deaths. Yet out of fifty states, Oklahoma was the only one not taking advantage of this federal matching program,” said Leftwich. “It is humbling to be honored for simply doing what needed to be done, because this will literally help us save the lives of thousands of Oklahoma women.”
The legislation was named for Rep. Hilliard’s mother, Belle Maxine Hilliard, who died of breast cancer.
“I think it is always important to remember that we’re not talking about statistics, we’re talking about people—people like my mother and thousands of other Oklahoma women. But it is also important to remember that it isn’t just a women’s health issue—it impacts the lives of everyone around them—their husbands, sons, brothers and so many more. I’m proud to be chosen for this award, but prouder still that we can point to this accomplishment on behalf of the people of Oklahoma,” Hilliard said.
The legislators will be honored during the Oklahoma Nurses Association Awards Luncheon this Friday, October 29 at the Doubletree Downtown Tulsa Hotel.