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FOR RELEASE: March 15, 2004
CONTACT: Leslea Bennet-Webb
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

State Income Tax Check Off Can Support Organ, Eye and Tissue Donation

What do income tax refunds and organ, eye and tissue donations have in common? All provide an opportunity to help save or enhance a life.

As you prepare your state income tax form this year, the Oklahoma Organ Donor Education and Awareness Program Advisory Council encourages you to make a financial gift from your refund to the Oklahoma Organ Donor Education Fund. This fund supports statewide education programs to help educate Oklahomans about organ, eye and tissue donation. Oklahoma’s State Income Tax Form 511 provides two places taxpayers can utilize to support this fund.

On Line 36, taxpayers can check off a portion of their refund toward the Oklahoma Organ Donor Education fund; Line 40 provides an opportunity for those who owe a tax to also provide a donation toward the organ donor fund.

Nearly 600 Oklahomans are currently on a waiting list for an organ transplant and thousands more are in need of tissue or eye transplants. The waiting list far exceeds the number of organs available. Part of the problem is education – not enough Oklahomans understand the need for donation and how it can save lives and improve the quality of life for so many.

To address this problem, the Oklahoma Legislature established the Oklahoma Organ Donor Education and Awareness Program through passage of SB 1528 in 2000. The law established a special fund to support activities that promote and encourage organ, eye and tissue donor education and awareness. Oklahomans can contribute to the fund as a reduction in their state income tax refund, or as an overpayment of taxes owed.

Oklahomans can also donate to the fund through their local tag agent’s office at the time they receive a driver’s license or state ID card, complete a title transaction, or purchase a license plate. The law requires that tag agents and Department of Public Safety employees who issue licenses must ask each applicant if they would like to donate to the fund – and just as importantly – if they would like to be an organ, eye or tissue donor.

“In 2003, the Oklahoma Organ Sharing Network reported 91 organ donors for the year, a 50 percent increase over 2002,” said Carmen Eppler, chair, Oklahoma Organ Donor Education and Awareness Program Advisory Council. “There were 580 tissue donors for the year, a significant increase over 2002, and the Oklahoma Lions Eye Bank recovered 312 corneas, a slight increase from 2002. We believe these increases were due in part to the educational efforts supported by the fund to promote organ, eye and tissue donation.”

For more information on donating to the Oklahoma Organ Donor Education Fund, or to find out more about organ, eye, and tissue donation, call toll free 1-888-580-5680, extension 120.

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