In 1973, New York State Police Sergeant Paul Richter was shot three times during a routine traffic stop. Sgt. Richter’s spinal cord sustained damage and he was paralyzed from the neck down. He has since regained enough mobility to walk with a cane.
For more than a decade, Sgt. Richter worked tirelessly to create a spinal cord injury research program. Since most spinal cord injuries result from vehicle accidents, he conceived the idea of funding the research program through a surcharge on moving traffic violation fines. In 1998, the SCIRP, Trust Fund and Spinal Cord Injury Research Board (SCIRB) were created and $8.5 million annually was statutorily directed to the program.
The 13-member SCIRB board, with members appointed by the Governor and Legislature, is housed in the Department of Health. SCIRB is charged with administering research grants funded by the Trust Fund. SCIRP funding recipients include: Albany Medical College, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Burke Medical Research Institute, Columbia University, Cornell University, Helen Hayes Hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York Medical College, New York University School of Medicine, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, CUNY – City College, CUNY Hunter College, CUNY Staten Island, SUNY Downstate, SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Upstate Medical University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY University at Albany, The Hospital for Special Surgery, and University of Rochester.
About the Program
In 1998, the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program was established, which created the Spinal Cord Injury Research Trust Fund. $8.5 million per year, generated from a surcharge on moving traffic violation fines, was designated to catalyze clinical and research efforts to find a cure for spinal cord injuries. This fund established New York State as the leader in research in Spinal Cord Injury.
In 2010, despite enormous progress at the lab bench and human bedside, the SCIRP was defunded and surcharge dollars were used to fill budget gaps. This resulted in the disruption and termination of research efforts and progress to human clinical trials. Thankfully, the state economy is recovering. the State raises far in excess of $8.5 million annually from the surcharge and directs all of these monies to the state’s General Fund. Last year, advocates were successful in restoring $2 million to the program. It is time to reignite the momentum created by SCIRP towards a cure by fully funding the SCIRP at $8.5 million, as required by law in the 2014-2015 State Budget.