The Future of Spinal Cord Injury Research in New York State

Published February 6, 2014

Statistically, the majority of spinal cord injuries are caused by a traumatic injury. Motor vehicle accidents are one of most common causes. In an effort to fund much needed spinal cord injury research, New York State enacted a proactive and practical approach to fund this needed research through New York’s Spinal Cord Injury Research Program (SCIRP). Since its inception in 1998, SCIRP has been funded through a small surcharge on moving traffic violations. Since then, SCIRP has provided $70 million toward developing treatments for spinal cord injury.

But in 2010, all of the revenue derived from the surcharge was diverted from spinal cord research (for which it was legally collected) to the general fund and used to pay the state’s operating bills instead of research projects. This violates the spirit of the law created for spinal cord injury relief and the profound wishes of advocates and patients. It undercuts the decision the state and the people of New York made in 1998 to make a long-term and sustained investment in neuroscience research for spinal cord injury.

Last month a number of clinicians and scientists from Burke made the trip to Albany for a lobbying day to unite with other advocates to ask for full reinstatement of the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program funding to 8.6 million per year.  Rajiv R. Ratan, M.D., Ph.D., executive director of the Burke Medical Research Institute (BMRI); and members of New Yorkers to Cure Paralysis were there to help ensure that this funding is restored to its entirety.

During the trip, groups representing patients, advocates, government relations professionals, lobbyists, clinicians and scientists, met with members of the senate and assembly to make the case for full funding. The day was a success but it highlighted the need for everyone within the Burke community to send letters to their local assemblyperson and senator to help our cause, as the legislature now has the power to restore this funding to the needed levels. The mothers of two former spinal cord injured patients who were treated at Burke were there and testified to the amazing treatment they received here. However, they also made impassioned pleas for additional funding for a cure.

The good news is that for the first time in 5 years, SCIRP is part of the Executive Budget at $2 million, but in order to deliver on our promise for cures, we need the full amount of 8.6 million dedicated to basic, translational and clinical research focused on spinal cord injury.

I believe this is a fight that should have our assistance. What can you do? Please reach out to your local representatives. If you do not know your representatives contact information you can find it here for the Assembly and here for the Senate. Or you can send a letter to the governor and have your voice heard regarding the need for additional spinal cord injury research. Ways to contact the governor can be found at the Governor’s Office contact page.

I thank you for your assistance in this very important matter and look forward to a cure in our lifetime.

Argyrios Stampas, MD
Director, Spinal Cord Injury Program

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