Steve and his therapist Emily at Parkinson Wellness Recovery.

This is a story about Steve, Vince, Jack, interested Arizona residents and a team of employees at Parkinson Wellness Recovery and the Parkinson & Movement Disorder Alliance, and what they did together to change Arizona law.

It all began in early 2018. Steve, a retired General Motors executive, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009. His neighbor, Jack, is an AARP Foundation tax aide preparer and visited Parkinson Wellness Recovery, or PWR, where Steve goes three times a week for physical exercise and therapy that includes voice and cognitive activities.

During a visit, Jack spoke to management to better understand the effect this treatment regimen can have on slowing the debilitating effect of Parkinson’s disease. In Steve’s words, PWR “has given me hope that there could be a possibility of slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease.”

PWR “helped change my outlook that one did not have to accept that the only future for me was to give up.”

In fact, PWR has significantly impacted Steve and Brenda, his wife and caregiver, in a positive way.

Jack left that day deciding to make a contribution to PWR through Arizona’s Charitable Tax Credit program, only to discover that PWR did not meet the tax credit criteria.

A key criteria for inclusion required that organizations treat “chronically ill children.” Parkinson’s almost universally impacts adults, normally older adults.

As an AARP tax preparer, Jack frequently processed tax returns for people making contributions through Arizona’s Charitable Tax Credit program. He decided to see what might be done to change the eligibility from “children” to “individuals.”

Jack contacted Arizona state Sen. Vince Leach, who agreed to come to PWR and learn of their leading-edge progress in treating Parkinson’s. A Parkinson & Movement Disorder Alliance representative was also at the meeting to help Leach understand their statewide education and support services available for people impacted by Parkinson’s and other movement disorders.

Steve presented himself as Exhibit 1 by describing and demonstrating for the senator the positive impact his treatment at PWR has made in slowing the progression and effects of his disease. Following the meeting, Senator Leach agreed to support our efforts and introduce legislation to change the statute.

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After all, delaying or avoiding costly hospitalizations and nursing home stays, and easing the burden on caregivers in a state known to attract retirees would be a worthwhile investment.

Not only that, it gave Arizona taxpayers an additional choice in directing their tax dollars.

True to his word, Leach introduced SB 1027 on Jan. 19, 2019, and on Feb. 4, 2019 the “team” made presentations before the Arizona Senate Finance Committee. The committee approved the statute change 9-1, and on June 7, 2019, Gov. Doug Ducey signed it into law.

So, this is a story about changing a law to benefit organizations making significant strides in treating a complicated, degenerative disease. More than that, it is a story about dedicated people and organizations working together to accomplish more than they might have thought possible.