Restore state funding for spinal cord research

I read with great sadness of the passing of Buffalo Police Officer Patricia A. “Patty” Parete, undoubtedly of complications related to the paralysis she lived with after her line-of-duty shooting in 2006.

In 1998, the New York State Legislature passed landmark legislation creating a program that invests in spinal cord injury research. The bill was brought to the Legislature by former New York State Police Zone Sergeant Paul A. Richter who, like Patty, was shot and paralyzed on the job near Lake Placid on Sept. 30, 1973. The bill, signed into law by Gov. George E. Pataki on July 14, 1998, imposed a small surcharge on speeding tickets, a portion of which went to a trust fund that awarded research grants toward a cure for paralysis.

The program is called the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program (SCIRP). Over the years, some $70 million was raised and invested in research under this program. It has been a good and far-sighted investment, it has had solid and tangible results and it has made New York a national leader in this line of medical research.

In recent years, New York’s fiscal and political problems have caused successive governors and the Legislature to divert SCIRP’s share of the revenue generated by the surcharge to pay the state’s ordinary and mounting bills.

A fitting tribute to Parete would be for her family, friends, colleagues, supporters and the citizens of Buffalo to whom she gave her all to call upon Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to restore funding to this valuable and productive research program.

Terry O’Neill

Director, The Constantine

Institute, Albany