The revised Florida budget, which looks set for approval tomorrow, will cut only $1.5 million of the $15 million in state funding for the Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute. Initial proposals for cuts ranged from $7.5 million to the entire $15 million.
Although this is a reprieve for the Institute, it doesn’t mean that state funding is secure in the long run. With the housing market in meltdown here, Florida’s tax revenues are unlikely to grow any time soon. The legislature may be forced to make more cuts.
To ensure continued funding and research, the Byrd Institute, like every other Alzheimer’s research center, must find ways to strengthen its relationship with the community. This means more than just outreach and education. As discussed in a previous post, patients and their families must have more say in how research is prioritized, funded and managed. People with early-stage dementia can understand complex issues, make decisions and give valuable advice. Their family members can also add perspective. Including patients and their families in research decisions won’t be easy, and is unlikely to happen overnight. Alzheimer’s researchers could look at patient involvement in cancer research for ideas on how to move towards this model.
A close relationship with the community will help ensure that scientists are conducting the research that matters most to patients. In return, patients and their families will support that research with advocacy and private donations.