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Spinal cord injury victims aim to reignite research

A research program based in New York has given over $70 million in grant money to spinal cord injury experts since 1998. However, since 2010, nearly all of the program's money has gone towards paying down the state's budget deficit of $7.4 billion. Now, some spinal cord injury victims and researchers from establishments such as the Burke Rehabilitation Center and the University of Rochester are beginning to push for the program's rejuvenation.

The group is hoping that a ruling earlier this year has given them momentum. The governor of New York agreed to allot $2 million of the state's current budget to go to the fund. The coalition of researchers and victims believes that state law dictates how the program must be funded, as it was created by law in July 1998. Early advocates of the program included spinal cord injury sufferers, such as a police sergeant that had been shot multiple times during a traffic stop, as well as famous "Superman" actor Christopher Reeve.

The money used to fund the program comes largely from moving violations in the state. A ticket in New York can range from $25 to $300, and surcharges from these payments bring in around $150 million per year. The law that established the program capped the total yearly state contribution at $8.5 million, a number that the new coalition is rallying to see returned to the state's budget.

The advocates leading the coalition are doctors, researchers and physical therapists, many of who are seen as top experts in the field of spinal cord injuries. One advocate is a powerful attorney from Manhattan that was left paralyzed after a skiing accident in 2007. One member of the coalition specializing in regenerative medicine stated that the funding was cut just as medical institutions were making serious breakthroughs.

Even though the funding push is happening in New York, people all over the world could benefit from the research being done there. Residents of West Virginia and all over the country who have suffered a spinal cord injury should encourage medical advances in the hopes that their condition can one day be improved.

Source:, "Researchers, victims push Cuomo on spinal injury fund" Jon Campbell, Dec. 26, 2013

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