Lawmakers want study for Lyme disease link to mental illness

A bill unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday directs state agencies to study whether Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses can cause mental illness in infected patients.

Sponsors include James Seward, an Otsego County Republican whose district includes part of Ulster County, and who serves on the Senate Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases. In a press release touting the bill, he said, “Studying Lyme in relation to mental health is a logical step forward that can lead to improved diagnosis and treatment plans that can improve patient outcomes in the short- and long-term.”

He said the task force held a hearing last August at which patients with tick-borne illnesses described their “battles with mood disorders, anxiety, depression and other mental health related issues.”

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, a Forestburgh Democrat who represents most of Sullivan County and part of Orange, is sponsoring the bill in the Assembly. She’s chairwoman of the Assembly Mental Health Committee and a former nurse. The Assembly hasn’t voted on the bill yet.

The bill would direct the Office of Mental Hygiene and Department of Health to conduct a study examining whether infectious diseases and blood-borne pathogens can lead to mental ailments, and submit the results by Oct. 1, 2019.

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