Advocates for Iowans who suffer from epilepsy say state support for a private group that helps epileptics has declined by 70 percent in the past five years.

“There are currently 30,000 persons living in Iowa that have or are effected by epilepsy,” says Courtney Strutt Todd, a member of the Iowa Advisory Council for the Epilepsy Foundation of North/Central Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska.

Strutt Todd and other advocates are asking state officials to provide the Epilepsy Foundation with $100,000 worth of state taxpayer support next year.

“We are the only sustainable service in the state and the only resource available for individuals and families suffering from epilepsy,” Strutt Todd says. “This program specifically saves the state thousands of dollars by preventing emergency room visits billable to Medicaid, by preventing unemployment or underemployment with persons with epilepsy and by saving lives in persons with uncontrolled seizures.”

The Epilepsy Foundation has an office in Des Moines that coordinates the work of support groups in Des Moines, Sioux City, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo. The foundation offers counseling, education and referrals to Iowans who have been diagnosed with epilepsy.

“This year alone 200,000 people in the United States will develop epilepsy and 50,000 will die of seizures,” Strutt Todd says. “The Epilepsy Foundation is working to lower this statistic.”

A state task force formed in 2011 has been studying whether generic drugs are an appropriate substitute for brand-name drugs prescribed to treat epileptic seizures. One estimate indicates the state could save $11 million if generics were used instead of brand-name drugs. That task force is to submit a report to legislators by the end of January.