Abundant resources exist for those with multiple sclerosis

  • Illustration of M.S. ribbon and butterfly by Jen Dolan.

Illustration by Jen Dolan

March is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Awareness Month. As someone with MS, I make a point of writing something pertaining to this chronic and disabling condition each March. This year, my goal is to help those with MS, and their loved ones, become aware of the many groups that offer assistance and support.

A resource that exists for MS sufferers of various income levels is the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA). This non-profit organization celebrates artists with MS, offers free webinars and a free magazine, and issues free personal cooling equipment such as ice vests and scarves, and personal equipment for safety, mobility and exercise. MS households with income up to 3x the federal poverty rate may qualify for the equipment programs. MSAA can also assist some individuals with paying for an MRI.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society  is perhaps the most recognizable organization (they are the organization behind all Walk MS events), and funds a lot of MS research, however that isn’t all they do. They also sponsor free education events and help connect people with MS resources available in their area. For anyone newly diagnosed, reaching out to this organization should be at the top of your to-do list.

There are several grants and programs available through the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. Most of these are targeted to low-income MS households, and the expectation for grant seekers is that they approach the National Multiple Sclerosis Society first, as any local or state resources should be explored before seeking funds from this organization. That is something I have encountered first-hand that isn’t immediately clear when reviewing the paperwork.

Grants are offered to cover the costs of transportation, home care, healthcare, computers, cooling equipment, assistive technology, and emergency assistance for those with MS who lack other means.

Many of the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation’s programs are available to anyone with MS. This includes locally available exercise programs (there is an MS water exercise program offered free of charge to people with MS at the Stevens Point YMCA) and support groups. The organization also publishes MS Focus magazine, which is sent to MS households free of charge, and sponsors MS Focus at Sea, an Alaskan Cruise specifically for people with MS. The Brighter Tomorrow Grant that the organization offers can be used to cover the cost of the cruise for a person with MS.

If you have MS but think that you would be excluded from a program based on your income, think again. Help with paying for medication is available not only to those with little income or lacking health insurance. After all, with the typical costs of disease modifying treatments (DMT), often ranging between $50,000 and $100,000 per year, one would have to be quite well off to afford to pay the total sum. Patient assistance programs exist for every DMT on the market.

While MS creates many challenges for the afflicted, there are numerous supportive services to help.