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Gresham man fights for Parkinsons research

Kevin Mansfield hopes to educate government officials in Washington, D.C.


People with Parkinson's need an advocate, and a Gresham man with the disease will be that voice in Washington, D.C.

Kevin Mansfield has been educating the public about the disease as assistant state director of the Parkinson's Action Network. This week, from Feb. 25-27, Mansfield will represent Portland at the Parkinson's Action Network Forum in the nation's capital, hoping to teach government officials about the importance of continued research leading to a cure.

“The PAN Forum is an incredible opportunity to join forces with other advocates from across the country and have our voices heard in Washington,” Mansfield said. “I am excited to represent the people of Portland in our nation's capital and will work hard to make a difference for people with Parkinson's and their families.”

At the PAN Forum, people living with Parkinson's, their families and caregivers, scientists and researchers, as well as others working toward finding a cure, come together in the nation's capital to hear the latest breakthroughs made in Parkinson's research and learn what role the federal government plays in fighting the disease.

Mansfield also will meet with fellow advocates and speak with members of Congress and their staffs about ways the government can supports means to find better treatments and possibly a cure, as well as improve the quality of life for people living with Parkinson's.

“I'm hoping to tell them the importance of keeping research going, not letting it fall away,” he said. “We'll encourage them the best we can to keep those funds available.”

Mansfield's most pressing matter in Washington is an upcoming vote that could reduce government funding for Parkinson's research.

If March 1 comes and goes without a resolution to the sequester, across-the-board spending cuts will take effect. That would include cuts to the National Health Institute and result in limited funding for Parkinson's research.

Mansfield, along with a team of advocates, will meet with U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer about the importance of biomedical research and why those with Parkinson's need the government's help.

“I know there are a lot of budget cuts that they have to do, but there are other areas that they could cut,” he said. “You cut research for just one year, that would do major damage.”

Mansfield was working for an animal-feed manufacturer when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's 12 years ago.

It forced him to quit his job, but with that time he began speaking out on behalf of others who are coping with the disease. He's met and written to numerous state representatives, hoping he could teach others about a disease, Mansfield said, many know little about.

“I don't think a lot of people understand it,” he said. “You say you have Parkinson's and some people become kind of afraid. I don't think there is a great knowledge about it out there.

“But I know doctors are learning a lot more about it.”

Mansfield said it's vital that the government continues funding research. Reducing or eliminating funding, he said, would put many researchers out of work and “everything that they've researched is going to go out the door.”

But the Gresham resident is hopeful that won't happen. And not only that, he believes doctors are making strides toward easing the hardships caused by the disease.

“I'm hoping somebody will come up with a way of either curing this, or at least coming up with a way of slowing it down.” he said.




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