State Representative Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores) introduced House Resolution 65 declaring March as Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) Awareness month in Michigan that was adopted March 19, 2013. The representative was joined at the Capitol by her constituent, Phillip Fortier, who, in honor of his brother, started the Joseph G. Fortier Foundation for MSA to spread awareness, increase funding and provide resources for MSA patients and other rare movement disorders.

“I was honored to have Phil and his mother, Madeline, here to both honor their beloved family member who lost his life to MSA, and to also raise awareness for this rare disease,” said Roberts. “The Joseph G. Fortier Foundation for MSA is the first of its kind in Michigan and is providing vital awareness and research efforts so that one day, there may be a cure.”

MSA is a debilitating disease that affects five of every 100,000 people. Because MSA is a neurodegenerative disease, it causes symptoms similar to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) or Parkinson’s disease. Patients with MSA generally experience loss of movement, balance, motor skills and automatic functions of the body. The life expectancy for those with MSA is typically three to nine years. However, many of the patients rapidly become immobilized and bed-ridden. At present, there is no cure for MSA, no genetic tests to detect it and very few treatments to manage its debilitating effects.

Along with Rep. Roberts in presenting the resolution was state Representative Pam Faris (D-Clio), who is a strong advocate for raising awareness for MSA.

“I know the toll this awful disease takes on families, having one of my own family members suffer with MSA. I am happy to help show others dealing with MSA they are not alone and to spread the word about this rare disease,” said Faris.