DETROIT – State Representative Harvey Santana (Detroit) today visited two Secretary of State Offices in Detroit in honor of Minority Donor Awareness Day and added his name to Michigan’s Organ Donor Registry. By signing up himself, Santana hopes to bring light to the issue and encourage people of color to sign up for the registry.

“I was very compelled to join this cause once I understood how organ donation impacts communities of color,” Santana said. “As a State Representative, I feel I have the responsibility to lead the conversation on this subject, as many of the families I work for are those being most affected. I hope my efforts will raise awareness for this noble cause and encourage more minorities to become donors.”

Santana was also joined at the event by officials from Detroit’s Gift of Life Minority Organ and Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP), which organized the events, and a representative from the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office. Monday, Aug. 1 marked the 15th anniversary of National Minority Donor Awareness Day, which honors the generosity of multicultural donors and their families, while also underscoring the critical need for diverse communities to register as potential organ and tissue donors. Since Minority Donor Awareness Day was started in 1996, the number of minority donors has more than doubled.

Data from the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) confirms that African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian/Pacific Islanders comprise more than 54 percent of the 110,000 U.S. residents who are currently on the national waiting list for life-saving organ and tissue transplants. Communities of color are also disproportionately at risk for health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, and hepatitis – all conditions that can lead to possibly needing a transplant.

“We are very pleased to be part of recognizing National Minority Donor Awareness Month because getting the word out to every Michigan resident in every community is critical to saving lives,” said Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. “We strongly support the efforts of the National Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program and its efforts to encourage more minority community members to become organ and tissue donors.”

During her first six months in office, Johnson, working with partners Gift of Life Michigan and the Michigan Eye-Bank, launched several new initiatives aimed at expanding Michigan’s Organ Donor Registry. Those efforts have resulted in double-digit monthly increases in May (20 percent), June (25 percent) and July (28 percent) over the same months last year.

“We are very pleased at the strong progress, but we have a long way to go in Michigan,” Johnson said. “We can and will do better.”

Santana has partnered with Gift of Life MOTTEP to celebrate National Minority Donor Awareness Day throughout the month of August. He is an Honorary Chairperson for the 2012 Lifesavers Leadership Breakfast and will participate as the 2012 LIFE Walk/Run Marshall.