The1st meeting of the Subcommittee on Families and Children of the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare was held on Wednesday, August 20, 2008, at 10:00 AM, in the Glass Room of the Ambulatory Care Building at the University of Louisville Health Sciences Center Campus . Representative Tom Burch, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members: Representative Tom Burch, Co-Chair; Senators Tom Buford, Perry B. Clark, and Johnny Ray Turner; Representatives James R. Comer Jr., Joni L. Jenkins, and Reginald Meeks.
Guests: Dan Fox for Family and Children First, and Johnathan Lowe from the Legislative Research Commission.
LRC Staff: Ben Payne, Jonathan Scott, and Cindy Smith.
The first item on the agenda was a presentation on the Bucks for Brains Program by Dr. James Ramsey, Ph.D., President of the University of Louisville. Dr. Ramsey, discussed how the University of Louisville has utilized the funding provided by the General Assembly through the Bucks for Brains Program that began in 1998. He informed the subcommittee that the University embraced the mandate of the program, which declared “Great Cities Need Great Universities.” The university used the program to build research programs in high tech medical fields that spur economic development, drug development, high paying jobs, and a better quality of life for Kentuckians. Dr. Ramsey reported that the program at U of L has received $99 million from the General Assembly since 1998, and another $99 million has been generated in matching funds. The program has allowed faculty to conduct research and make strides in the areas of cervical cancer research, stem cell research, and spinal cord research.
The next item on the agenda was a presentation on Spinal Cord Research by Dr. Susan J. Harkema, Ph.D, Owsley Brown Frazier Chair in Clinical Rehabilitation Research, Associate Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery, Rehabilitation Director, Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center and Dr. Christopher B. Shields, M.D., F.R.C.S., Norton Healthcare Chair in Neurosurgery, Professor and Chair, Department of Neurological Surgery, Clinical Director, Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center. Dr. Harkema and Dr. Shields presented information to the subcommittee regarding Spinal Cord Injury Research. Dr. Harkema discussed her area of rehabilitation of spinal cord injuries. She discussed research being done into the retraining and the adaptability of the spinal cord. She emphasized how important the Bucks for Brains dollars have been to the spinal cord research program and that the funding has allowed the University of Louisville to bring in top faculty and researchers. Dr. Harkema presented examples of several Kentuckians who have been helped by the spinal cord research U of L is doing. One such person was Chase Ford, a young child from Owensboro. He suffered a spinal cord injury as an infant that left him unable to move his arms and legs. After three years of research and rehabilitation at U of L, he now has use of his arms and legs, to the point that he can walk with assistance.
Dr. Shields presented information on how the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center is focused on creating additional endowed chairs in the three areas of Clinical Neurosurgery, Science Research, and Rehabilitation to further the work that is currently being done. Dr. Shields said that the Center aspires to advance from the six current endowed chairs to ten endowed chairs in the near future.
Representative Burch asked how much time it typically takes to retrain a spinal cord. Dr. Harkema said that Chase Ford’s rehabilitation took three years. Adults have received rehabilitation services for periods ranging from three months to multiple years. She noted that after all the rehabilitation, some people still do not regain the ability to walk. Of those who engaged in re-training of the spinal cord, 85 percent have improved dramatically, while 15 percent have not.
Representative Jenkins asked what clinical team specialties the doctors are looking for. Dr. Harkema said all specialty areas are being looked at.
Representative Burch commented that he thinks the progress being made is wonderful, and the program has definitely been worth the money that has been invested. He also encouraged the subcommittee members to visit the labs so see first-hand what they are doing.
Dan Fox, Executive Director of Family & Children First and Pam Helms, President of Family Place discussed current activities of their two organizations. Both organizations serve the needs of children and families in the Louisville Metro area by assisting with issues of child abuse, family violence, counseling services, reunification services, and homelessness prevention initiatives. Family and Children First recently celebrated 125 years in operation and Family Place has been operating for 30 years. Family and Children First and Family Place informed the subcommittee they are merging effective October 1st. It is their joint vision to further benefit the community by offering improved and expanded services for families and children affected by violence, abuse, and neglect. The two organizations serve over 5,000 families annually and 75 percent of those families have incomes under $15,000. Statistics were reported that almost 16,000 children sustained some form of maltreatment in Kentucky in 2006. Over $1.4 billion is spent in Kentucky annually on the immediate and long-term effects of child abuse. The new entity aspires to create a Child Trauma Center where all children who are maltreated can receive mental health, medical, law enforcement, and child protective services in one location. It was reported that this center will cost four million dollars and they are requesting one million dollars from the General Assembly.
Representative Jenkins asked how much federal, state and local funding they had lost. Mr. Fox said $350,000 total from the funding streams had been lost. Even though funds were lost, the Board did not cut services. They are pursuing fundraising efforts and hoping to raise $500,000 - $600,000.
Representative Jenkins encouraged the members to support funding of the Child Trauma Center because it is vital to the community.
Representative Meeks asked what new services will be used to help try to stop abuse once the two programs are merged. Mr. Fox said they will be able to use a child abuse prevention program grant to help.
Representative Meeks said he appreciates the two organizations uniting to provide better services, and wishes that message could get out to more agencies so more services could be provided.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:34 a.m.