On April 20 and 21, 2015, we held our Legislative Action Days at the State Capitol in Sacramento. Our mission and purpose: to educate California legislators about the need for organ, eye and tissue donation and by sharing our stories, inspire them to help us save and heal more lives in our state. Donate Life California Board members, staff and Donate Life Ambassadors from the state’s four organ procurement organizations (OPOs) met with 39 state legislators. There were many connections to donation and transplantation in our group, including transplant recipients, family of recipients, donor family members, living donors and a transplant candidate. All had the opportunity to talk about their experiences with the legislators, along with these key points:
- The vast majority, 95%, of our sign-ups come from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), our state-authorized partner.
- More than 123,000 people are on the national organ transplant waiting list. 22,000 of those live right here in California.
- Only 39% of Californians are registered organ, eye and tissue donors. The national average is 50.2%.
- Our legislative history, including:
- AB 1967 (Perez, 2012) – Ensures that organ and tissue donation is taught in high school health and science classes statewide. Currently, the science education frameworks are being updated to include new items, including organ and tissue donation.
- AB 2399 (Perez, 2014) – Enables Donate Life California to electronically sign up donors using a driver license or ID card and a mobile scanning device. The program, called eRegistration, is being rolled out soon.
While we aren’t currently sponsoring any legislation, it is still important to educate our legislators, in particular those who are serving for the first time, about our mission to save and heal more lives through organ, eye and tissue donation and to offer them ways to support our efforts. We encouraged our legislators to put a Donate Life California link on their websites to enable their constituents to sign up, and to share our mission through their newsletters, social media and other communications channels.
In addition to our visits, we were invited to accept a DMV/Donate Life California Month resolution on both the Assembly and Senate Floors. Assemblyman Jim Frazier (AD 11) authored Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 29, which encourages all Californians to sign up with the Donate Life California Organ & Tissue Donor Registry and declared April 20, 2015 as DMV/Donate Life California Day in California. Assemblyman Frazier presented the resolution to the Donate Life California Board of Directors and the DMV, represented by Director Jean Shiomoto.
Senator Sharon Runner (SD 21) presented ACR 29 on the Senate Floor to Donate Life California CEO Charlene Zettel and DMV Director Shiomoto. Senator Runner received a double lung transplant in February 2012. (Watch her presentation here.) Senator Runner is one of two current state senators who have been given the gift of life. Senator Tom Berryhill (SD 8) is a heart transplant recipient. He also spoke during the presentation. (Watch his speech here.) Senator Berryhill is celebrating the 14th anniversary of his transplant on May 10, Mother’s Day.
On Monday afternoon, we hosted a Legislative Reception to honor our partnership with the DMV and to celebrate the DMV’s Centennial – A Century of Innovation. During a short program, Donate Life California Board President Cindy Siljestrom presented DMV Director Shiomoto with a “birthday” cake featuring the DMV Centennial logo and a decorative clock to represent the additional time that organ, eye and tissue donors give to recipients and their loved ones. Director Shiomoto promised to continue to work with Donate Life California to improve the donor registration process and to educate DMV employees about their role in saving and healing lives through organ, eye and tissue donation and transplantation.
Senator Berryhill stopped by the reception to share his inspiring story and moved the crowd to tears when he said he’s alive today to watch his daughter grow up thanks to his donor. (Read his Story of Hope here.) A representative from Senator Runner’s office also spoke at the event and shared how her office is promoting organ, eye and tissue donation. The Donate Life logo has been painted on a door and a wall in her district office. And, she and her staff held a Blue & Green Day event and wore blue and green, the Donate Life colors, on Blue & Green Day on Friday, April 17.
The final speaker was donor mother and DMV employee Lydia Alcantar of Porterville. She shared the story of her son, Edward “Lalo” Alcantar, who became a tissue and cornea donor at age 15. She consented to donation after recalling he had told her, “Why not let someone else see all the beautiful and gorgeous things I’ve seen?” (Read his Story of Hope here.) Lalo’s picture, in the form of a floral portrait called a floragraph, was featured on the 2015 Donate Life Rose Parade Float on New Year’s Day in Pasadena.
Other highlights of our Legislative Action Days include:
- Group photo with Speaker Toni Atkins on the Capitol steps. (Photo at top of page.)
- Awards presentation for 2015 Donate Life Visual Arts Contest sponsored by Sierra Donor Services and UC Davis Transplant Program. Special guests included Dr. Richard Perez and Dr. Davis Acosta from UC Davis Health System.
- Legislative briefing by Assemblyman Jim Frazier in preparation for our visits with the legislators.
Enjoy more photos from our two-day visit here.
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