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New York lawmakers debate funding for spinal cord injury research

In 1998, a law took effect in New York which devoted up to $8.5 million every year to the state's Spinal Cord Injury Research Program, which finances grants for research into the treatment of paralysis and other serious back and neck injuries. But in 2010, amidst a massive state budget deficit, those funds were cut.

In recent years, spinal cord injury research funding has been restored, but it is nowhere near the levels provided for in the 1998 law. Last year, the legislature placed $2 million in the research program, and the same amount has been proposed for the 2014-2015 budget year. However, lawmakers from both legislative houses are fighting to increase that amount.

Specifically, the New York Assembly has proposed placing $2.5 million into the research program, while the state Senate has proposed restoring the full $8.5 million. An organization called New Yorkers to Cure Paralysis, which is comprised of victims and researchers as well as medical facilities, is working to push for more funding, so it remains to be seen what the final amount will be.

According to Bradford Berk, the CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center, there is a huge need for additional research into spinal cord injuries in order to ensure the quality of life of the injured. "Many [individuals with spinal cord injuries] can't lead productive lives," said Berk, who has been in a wheelchair since suffering a spinal cord injury in a 2009 bicycle accident. "For every one of us that you see out here, there are five people who are homebound."

Source: Star-Gazette, "Injury victims, lawmakers push for more spinal research funding," Jon Campbell, Mach 17, 2014

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