We Are Stronger Together – An Employee’s Mission to Advocate for MS

Let me introduce you to Holly Hill.  She is the Vice President of Business Operations and has worked at DCS for 23 years.  Holly is very passionate about volunteering and helping others. When I mentioned that I would like to feature her work with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in this month’s blog, she enthusiastically agreed.

For those who are not familiar with MS, it is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. Multiple sclerosis is thought to affect more than 2.3 million people worldwide. While the disease is not contagious or directly inherited scientists have identified factors in the distribution of MS around the world that may eventually help determine what causes the disease. These factors include gender, genetics, environment, age, geography and ethnic background.

In writing this blog, I discovered that this is MS Awareness Week. I invite you to read about Holly’s work with the Northwest Chapter and the volunteer opportunities available to everyone interested.   There is a genuine commitment at DCS to help others.  Employees are supported and encouraged to participate in volunteer activities of their choice.

 How long have you been involved with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society?

I have volunteered with the MS Society for about 15 years in various capacities. I have volunteered with and participated in the MS Walk since the beginning helping to organize various aspects and staffing the Advocacy booth. For several years I was a volunteer Peer Counselor providing an ear and advice for people living with MS in Washington. Volunteering in the Greater Northwest Chapter office is always fun! For the last eight years or so I have devoted most of my energy to Advocacy as a member and Chair of the Government Relations Advisory Committee. This committee helps establish the State Legislative Agenda for the Chapter which we promote by visiting Olympia for State Action Day and meeting with our Federal and State representatives both in Olympia during session and throughout the year in district.

What types of services does the National MS Society provide to their members?

The local chapter is all about providing help and support for people living with MS. That doesn’t mean only the person who has MS, but also families and caregivers. On the website http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Chapters/WAS , there are many categories of support, such as Health & Wellness, Family & Relationships, Financial Assistance, Employment, Insurance & Financial Planning, Social & Emotional Support, Mobility & Accessibility, and MS Education. An MS Navigator will get to the bottom of the problem and help provide resources to assist with whatever issues a person is concerned about.

What are the biggest challenges for those with MS?

MS is a disabling neurological disease that affects every person differently. Symptoms can range from numbness and tingling, difficulty talking, cognitive challenges, mobility challenges, fatigue…there are so many more symptoms and challenges facing people with MS.  For more information, go to   http://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS .  MS typically begins affecting a person’s life in their young adult years just as they are starting their independent lives and can be life altering.

Give some examples of the medical research in progress.

Scientists are always looking for a cure and to cure a disease, scientists must know what causes it. Since we don’t know what causes MS there is a lot of attention directed to genetics, living environment, virus contraction and how they relate to each other. In addition, there are studies evaluating diet and gut health and Vitamin D exposure and many others. The Vitamin D connection makes sense to those of us in Washington since we have one of the highest rates of MS in the United States and low Vitamin D exposure since it is cloudy most of the time. Several Northern States have high rates of MS, as well.

Tell me about the initiatives you are working on for the Northwest Chapter?

Most of our initiatives focus on health care in general. This session we are asking the legislature to make Drug Pricing more transparent. Another issue we are bringing to the legislature is requiring insurance companies to honor their contracts and provide Continuity of Care throughout the policy year so that there aren’t unexpected changes in coverage during a policy year. In the past we have been successful with issues around Disability Parking and allowing more MS doctors to obtain certification.

What volunteer opportunities are available?

Just about anything! The chapter always needs help organizing their fundraising events such as the MS Walk, and Bike MS. The chapter office can use volunteers with IT experience and general office assistance. MS Activists are in high demand as we need representation in every district in every State. Each State utilizes the activist community to help educate and influence Federal, State, and local legislators. Call your local chapter and tell them you want to volunteer – they will find a place for you!

When are the MS Walk and Bike events?

In Washington they are in April and September, though every State has their own schedule of events. Check http://www.nationalmssociety.org/ for a calendar of your local events.

How has DCS supported your work with the National MS Society?

I occasionally have committee conference calls during the work day and DCS is flexible in allowing me to participate. Everyone knows when I am heading to Olympia for State Action Day! DCS and my fellow team mates help support my fundraising efforts for the MS Walk.

Contributed by: Amy Noel Executive Vice President, Sales & Recruiting