Should California NOT Fund Paralysis Cure?  Decision Day, April 5th

By Don C. Reed

A $3 fine tacked onto every reckless driving ticket in California would mean $11,000,000 a year for spinal cord injury research for cure—IF Assembly Bill 190 (Wieckowski, D-Fremont) passes the Public Safety Committee hearing in Sacramento, April 5th.

If AB 190 passes, money will be put into the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Program. It is everything or nothing. If AB 190 is voted down, so is the research.

Reckless driving is a direct and major cause of paralysis, with roughly 46% of all spinal cord injuries caused by car crash.

Do other states have similar programs? YES! According to the National Academies of Science, the following seven states funded spinal cord injury research programs via traffic ticket add-on, or surcharge for driving under the influence (DUI):

1.      Florida (DUI charges);

2.      Illinois (traffic ticket surcharges);

3.      Kentucky (traffic violation surcharge);

4.      Missouri (traffic surcharges);

5.      New Jersey ($1 surcharge on traffic or motor vehicle fines);

6.      New York (traffic ticket surcharges);

7.      South Carolina (a $100 surcharge on fines for DUI).

–“Spinal Cord Injury: Progress, Promise, and Priorities: Copyright (c) National Academy of Sciences.

It is almost seventeen years since Roman Reed broke his neck playing college football: September 10th, 1994. In an instant, he was paralyzed from the shoulders down. When people ask how he is doing, I always answer: every day is Hell, because it is.  Roman never complains, but I am his father, and I see what he goes through.

The Roman Reed program (see bottom of page for brief description) is a chance to defeat paralysis. I am not prepared to sit back and watch it die.

If you agree, then help me now.

Below is the 7-person committee which will decide our fate. Please call or email them TODAY: if you only write one letter, make it to the chair, he has the most power.

Short letters are best: just say you support Assembly Bill 190 (Weickowski, D-Fremont), because reckless driving is a major cause of spinal cord injury, and violators should pay a small fee to support cure research.

Tom Ammiano – Chair Dem-13 (916) 319-2013
Steve Knight – Vice Chair Rep-36 (916) 319-2036
Gilbert Cedillo Dem-45 (916) 319-2045
Curt Hagman Rep-60 (916) 319-2060
Jerry Hill Dem-19 (916) 319-2019
Holly J. Mitchell Dem-47 (916) 319-2047
Nancy Skinner Dem-14 (916) 319-2014

Please send a copy of your email to:

Finally, here is a brief description of the program we are trying to save.

The Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act: AB750/AB1794/AB190

Since its inception in 2000, the Roman Reed Program has provided $14.6 million for spinal cord injury research in California. This seed funding attracted add-on grants and other additional funding of $63,867,216 from the National Institutes of Health and other out-of-state sources, creating new jobs. It was twice renewed by near-unanimous votes of the Assembly and Senate.

Spinal cord injury causes a significant drain on state resources: an estimated five million six hundred thousand Americans suffer some form of paralysis, and 1,275,000 live with a catastrophic spinal cord injury. Financial costs are devastating.  Medical costs during the first year after a spinal cord injury are approximately $775,000, and as much as three million dollars over the life of a quadriplegic, which exhausts insurance caps.  Consequently, almost all people with a spinal cord injury end up on Medical and Medicare.  Improving function and health of people with SCI will reduce this financial burden to the state.

The Program is administered by the University of California system and is directed by Oswald Steward at the Reeve-Irvine Research Center at UC Irvine.  The Program provides small grants (seed funding) for California scientists and supports a core laboratory for spinal cord injury research at the Reeve-Irvine Research Center.

1) Research grants are determined by a panel of out-of-state experts to preclude conflicts of interest. Of a total 289 applications, 129 were awarded grants totaling $11,795,292. Additionally, 68 fellowships were awarded to graduate students working on spinal cord injury for an aggregate cost of $1,607,487. These grants achieved efficient leveraging, resulting in 71 new grants  from NIH and other sources, with a total $63,867,216 in new funding brought into California.

2) The Roman Reed Core Laboratory, a 6,000 square foot lab at UC Irvine, provides state of the art equipment, animal facilities, and trained personnel: where new scientists can learn, and established experts can work .The lab was dedicated on March 1, 2002, in a ceremony marked in the United States Congressional Record. The lab has hosted both individual projects (24) and collaborative efforts (18) as a central hub of spinal cord injury/nerve repair research.

Targets of funded research: develop neuroprotective interventions to reduce the wave of secondary that occurs in the hours and days following a spinal cord injury; restore bowel and bladder control; reduce chronic pain;  restore sexual function; prevent life-threatening blood pressure irregularities;  restore  myelin insulation around damaged nerves; prevent  formation of the spinal scar, which blocks nerve messages between brain and body; replace missing nerve cells;  implant bio-engineered frameworks to bridge the gap in the damaged spine; develop neurotrophins (nerve fertilizer) and other interventions to promote nerve re-growth; reduce bone-loss; test FDA-approved medications which may have an SCI application, and develop new activity-based therapies to improve function and overall health.

Results: 175 peer-reviewed publications.  Research on activity-based therapies led to new therapies which are a sea change for people with chronic spinal cord injury.  These exercise-based therapies improve quality of life, reduce secondary health complications, and save the state money due to reduced health care costs.  Other discoveries supported by the program are in the pipeline toward translation including:  1) the world’s first clinical trial for stem cells for spinal cord injury; 2) a treatment initially developed for spinal cord injury is in clinical trials for inflammatory bowel disease; 3) new surgical techniques have been developed to treat people with nerve injuries.

Please. Write one e-mail today. It could be the one that helps a lawmaker decide—and gives us the crucial vote to let the research go forward.

As Roman Reed always says: “Take a stand with us. Take a stand—so one day, everybody can.”

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