Advocates, lawmakers lobby for more spinal cord research funding

Mar 24, 2014

Lawmakers joined advocates for neurological research in Albany recently to lobby the legislature to refund a program they say could change the lives of people living with spinal cord injuries.

Heidi Greenbaum’s son Corey was left paralyzed from the chest down after a car accident six years ago. She says people with spinal cord injuries aren’t as permanently broken as some may think.

“It’s an interesting thing," Greenbaum said. "Their bodies are really fine. It’s like a small bridge that’s not working and so the communication is off between the brain and the rest of them. So while science has allowed amputees to have arms that move and function, these guys are all sitting here with perfectly healthy limbs that they just can’t access because they can’t get the messages down.”

Greenbaum - along with members of the group ‘New Yorkers to Cure Paralysis’  - gave their personal testimony about the crucial importance of neurological research. Dr. Brad Berk of the University of Rochester Medical Center, who now lives with a spinal cord injury, says too many people with similar injuries are invisible to society.  

“Many of them can’t lead productive lives," Berk said. "For every one of us you see out here, there are five people who are homebound because of problems with their bowels or bladder or their skin that limits them from active lives. Despite the fact that they are mentally intact, they’re homebound.”

Berk and others are looking for a return to the full $8.5 million for research earmarked in past state budgets. Sen. Tom Libous says the money was cut during the fiscal crisis under former Gov. David Paterson.

The funding wouldn’t come from taxpayers but a surcharge on traffic moving violations of less than six percent.

The bill, known as the Paul Bill after State Police Sergeant Paul Richter who was shot and paralyzed in the line of duty, has bipartisan support.

So far the Senate has agreed to pony up $6.5 million and the Assembly has agreed to $500,000. The budget submission deadline is April 1st.