Michigan received a special national award Wednesday for its dramatic growth in the number of registered organ, eye and tissue donors who save and heal lives.

Donate Life America presented the “Greatest Improvement in Donor Designation Rate” award to Michigan at the Donate Life National State Team Leader Conference in Grapevine, Texas. Michigan, one of four states to receive the special award, had the second highest growth in donor designations in 2011 among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly 400,000 people joined the Michigan Organ Donor Registry in 2011, up from 320,000 the year before – a 25 percent increase.

“The response from Michigan residents willing to give the gift of life has been incredible,” said Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, who changed department policy so now branch office customers are asked, time permitting, if they want to join the donor registry. Johnson also put organ donation reminders on widely used Secretary of State forms and uses social media to promote the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.

“I thank everyone who has taken a moment to join and all our employees who have made the new policy the success that it is,” she said. “Our work here isn’t done, however. I will continue working with Gift of Life Michigan, the Michigan Eye-Bank and our other partners to encourage more people to join.”

Richard Pietroski, CEO of Gift of Life Michigan, the state’s organ and tissue recovery organization, added: “This award reflects the collaboration between the Secretary of State, Gift of Life and all of our donation partners. It gives hope to the more than 3,000 people in Michigan and the 115,000 nationwide who need a life-saving organ transplant.”

The donor designation rate is the percentage of people renewing a driver’s license or state ID who join the donor registry or who have already joined. In 2010, Michigan’s rate was 29.7 percent. In 2011, the rate jumped to 35.4 percent. So far in 2012, Michigan’s rate is estimated to be well more than 40 percent, and the state is on pace to have over half-a-million new donor registrations.

“Michigan is to be congratulated for boosting its donor registrations,” said David Fleming, Donate Life America CEO and president. “This can directly impact the number of lives saved and healed through organ, tissue and eye donation.”

The Secretary of State works with Gift of Life, the Michigan Eye-Bank, the Donate Life Coalition of Michigan, the Michigan Donor Family Council, the Michigan Health & Hospital Association and other partners to promote organ, tissue and eye donation. Together, they constitute the “state team.”

To join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, anyone can sign up at any Secretary of State office or online at www.Michigan.gov/sos. Those who sign up receive a heart logo sticker to place on their driver’s license or ID card that indicates their wish to be an organ, tissue and eye donor. A new card with a permanent heart emblem is issued at renewal time.

Customers also may call the Department of State Information Center to speak to a customer-service representative at 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424).


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