Trump signs off on $1 million spending to implement Trevor's Law

Trevor Schaefer

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – A million dollars in federal funding will now help communities investigate suspected cancer clusters.

President Trump signed a funding measure for Trevor's Law, marking the first time the law will get fully implemented since it became law in 2016.

The WTHR 13 Investigates team brought national attention to Trevor's law with its reports on high pediatric cancer rates in Johnson County.

It means communities like Franklin, Indiana where 13 Investigates first discovered dozens of children diagnosed with cancer, can ask for federal help to investigate potential cancer clusters.

Health and Human services will also set up a database to help track areas of concern across the country.

Trevor's law is named after childhood cancer survivor Trevor Schaefer of Idaho. Trevor saw the WTHR reports from 2015 and asked the mothers who formed the group, "If It Was Your Child" to help push for the law. Since that time Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) teamed up with Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) to get bipartisan support. 

"It's critical that we do all we can to create an environment where Hoosier children are healthy and can thrive. That's why I'm proud President Trump signed into law my bipartisan provision to provide $1 Million to finally update the way the federal government partners with state and local governments and the public during the investigations of potential cancer clusters," said Donnelly in a released statement.

President Obama signed Trevor's law in 2016. But congress did not vote to fund it until now. The million dollars is part of the upcoming budget plan set to begin in 2019.

The federal Trevor's Law legislation was passed in 2016 after 13 Investigates exposed high pediatric cancer rates in Johnson County.

In 2015, the number of pediatric cases documented was nearly 30. That number is now approximately 50 according to the grassroots group, "If It Was Your Child."

"We've been working with the mom's from Franklin for quite a while now," said Trevor during a 2017 visit to Indianapolis.

Trevor and his mother, Charlie Smith, met with Johnson County moms Kari Rhinehart and Stacie Davidson in June 2017.

Rhinehart's daughter died from a rare brain cancer in 2014. Davidson's step-son Zane is in remission after a 3-year long battle with Leukemia.

The mothers visited the offices of various elected officials, including Senator Joe Donnelly, to ask for help in calling the federal agencies charged with tracking cancer clusters and streamlining investigations to push for funding.

"We need HHS to get going on it and start funding so these communities can feel safe and trust again," Charlie Smith told 13 Investigates.

"For the community of Franklin, Indiana, in Johnson County, Trevor's law is the kind of federal support they need today as they work with the State to see answers," said Donnelly, speaking of the on-going investigation into old contaminated industrial sites in Franklin.

One site is the former Franklin Power Products location on Forsythe Street, where the company paid an $800,000 settlement for several wastewater discharges into the city's sewer system.

Another location at 800 Hurricane Road is also under EPA oversight and is a former Amphenol and Franklin Power Products site.

Rhinehart and Davidson said they're frustrated the fight to get funding for the law has taken two years.

"Why bother passing a bill if you aren't going to ensure the funding from the start?" questioned Rhinehart.

"While we have fought beside Trevor Schaefer to bring his self-named law to life, more Johnson County children have been diagnosed and passed [away]." added Davidson. "Our children and community have paid the ultimate price while waiting on formalities. It is time that Trevor's law be utilized as intended."

The mothers told 13 Investigates they are appreciative of the efforts by Sen. Donnelly and Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho, who co-sponsor the bill.