OKLAHOMA CITY – TARC, a Tulsa-based organization advocating for the rights of citizens with developmental disabilities, has chosen Senator Jay Paul Gumm as its “Elected Official of the Year.”
Gumm received the award during TARC’s annual awards dinner held Monday at Tulsa’s Southwood Baptist Church. The lawmaker was honored for his efforts to require insurance companies to cover diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. The measure, known as “Nick’s Law,” has been reintroduced for the 2009 legislative session as Senate Bill 1.
“The struggle to end insurance discrimination against autistic children has transcended politics and touched lives across this state,” said Gumm, a Democrat from Durant. “The credit for raising this issue to the level it has reached belongs to the parents who struggle every day to provide a brighter future for their children with autism, and I am proud to stand with them.”
During the 2008 session of the Oklahoma Legislature, dozens of parents made regular treks to the State Capitol to lobby for “Nick’s Law,” named for 11-year-old Nicholas Rohde of Edmond. Those efforts helped secure repeated bipartisan votes in favor of the bill in the Senate, a small group of House leaders refused to allow the bill to even be considered by representatives.
“Senator Gumm is an outstanding advocate for the needs of children with autism and other developmental disabilities,” said John F. Gajda, TARC executive director. “People with disabilities and their families should be grateful for his persistent advocacy and dedication to meeting the needs of all Oklahomans with disabilities.
“Senator Gumm joins a small group of legislators who have been honored in this category and his advocacy efforts are admirable and appreciated.”
The TARC Advocacy Awards were created in 1991 by the agency’s board of directors to recognize advocates who have consistently spoken out on behalf of people with developmental disabilities. The work of these advocates echoes TARC’s mission by fostering the well-being, dignity and rights of citizens with developmental disabilities and their families.
Each October, nomination forms for the Advocacy Awards are included in the TARC monthly newsletter, providing citizens across the state the opportunity to nominate outstanding advocates. TARC members then receive ballots outlining each nominee’s advocacy efforts and choose the winners.
The TARC award was given in recognition of Gumm’s dedication and commitment to improving the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities, and was presented during a ceremony at Tulsa’s Southwood Baptist Church Monday.
“Getting to know families like Nick’s has been life-changing for me,” Gumm said. “These families show more about ‘family values’ than all the political slogans you hear during campaign season. Knowing these families has made me a better father, and even more committed to the cause of helping autistic children reach the potential God has given them.”
Established in 1952, TARC is a non-profit organization with offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Ada. TARC offers a network of programs providing education, empowerment, support, and advocacy for Oklahomans with developmental disabilities and their families.