NEW CAMPAIGN SEEKS TO RESTORE FULL FUNDING FOR NY SPINAL CORD INJURY RESEARCH TRUST
Advocates Call for an End to the Use of Dedicated Funds for General Budget Relief
ALBANY, N.Y. – A broad coalition of doctors, medical researchers, biotechnology pioneers and patients today urged state officials to fully fund the New York Spinal Cord Injury Research Trust program. The coalition, called New Yorkers to Cure Paralysis, also released a video in which patients and researchers talk about the achievements of the program and the importance of restoring full funding.
The landmark legislation creating the Spinal Cord Injury Research Trust Fund was passed unanimously by the New York State legislature in 1998. The law requires that New York State provide approximately $8.5 million in funding from a surcharge on moving traffic violations, which was chosen as a funding source since car accidents are a leading cause of spinal cord injury. From 1998 to 2010, the Trust Fund provided more than $71 million for scientific research at leading New York universities and research institutions, which helped establish New York State as the leader in research on spinal cord injury. But in 2010, the Paterson administration terminated funding to the program, using all of the proceeds from the surcharge to help balance its budget. This resulted in the disruption and termination of important research efforts and clinical trials. The last research activities linked to the original program are scheduled to conclude on December 31 of this year.
“Now that Governor Cuomo and the legislature have restored New York to fiscal health, it is time to restore full funding to the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program, which has already made a big difference in the lives of thousands of New Yorkers living with paralysis,” said coalition co-founder Paul Richter, a retired NY State Police sergeant who was partially paralyzed when shot in the line of duty. He worked with actor Christopher Reeve to create the Spinal Cord Injury Research Trust program in 1998.
Keith Gurgui, a resident of Lake Katrine, New York, who became paralyzed in 2009, notes in the group’s video that the cost of spinal cord injury can run into the millions of dollars and is one of the most costly forms of long-term disability. The types of therapies that can be advanced through research funded by the Spinal Cord Injury Research Trust can help reduce those costs, while working towards a long-term cure. “I think the investment towards the cure is going to be a lot less in the long run than the investment they’re making just to help treat the people,” Gurgui said.
Nancy Lieberman, co-founder of the coalition and a partner at the law firm of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, said: “As a result of research conducted at the Burke Rehabilitation center, I regained sufficient use of my arms and hands to allow me to return to work and continue my career as a lawyer.”
Coalition co-founder David Carmel said: “The Spinal Cord Injury Research Trust program has attracted leading scientists from across the country to New York to help find a cure for paralysis. This investment has attracted millions of dollars from the federal government and private sector and created hundreds of high-tech jobs. Estimates are that each dollar invested in the program was leveraged more than two-to-one from funds outside of New York State. These are exactly the type of investments that Gov. Cuomo is seeking to promote through his new Start-Up New York program.”
Coalition member Matthew Reeve, son of actor Christopher Reeve, who help create the original program in New York, said: “My father worked tirelessly to ensure that New York became the preeminent center for research to cure paralysis. I call on Governor Cuomo and the legislature to provide full funding for this program so that other New Yorkers living with paralysis can live to see the day that a cure is found.”