Sen. Terry Gipson, D-Rhinbeck, Dutchess County, today urged the state Health Department to increase funding of research on tick-borne illnesses.
Funding for a state Lyme disease education and research institute has declined by more than 50 percent since 2008 — from $150,000 to $69,500, the Poughkeepsie Journal reported last month.
“Tick-borne illnesses is something that we take very seriously as a public health issue and we are monitoring it all the time,” Shah said. “We are the recipient of multi-federal grants to conduct primary research on tick-borne illnesses.”
Gipson has proposed spending $1 million on research of the disease, and he blasted the state for not spending more on it.
He asked Shah how much New York is spending on the fracking review.
“We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Shah said.
Gipson responded: “So we’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars studying a substance such as natural gas. We can’t drink it. We can’t use it to irrigate our crops, but we’re only spending $50,000 researching something like tick-borne illness that is affecting people right now?”
Gipson said it appears funding for various diseases are being lumped into one pot, questioning whether that means cuts in aid or a competition for the funds.
“Are we going to have infectious disease groups sort of compete like an NCAA basketball tournament where this sort of bracketed competition and we have to pit these groups against each other? That doesn’t seem like an effective way to deal with infectious disease,” Gipson said.
Shah said the funding levels aren’t changing.
“It’s the same money. The same groups will get the money,” Shah explained, “to the same level of funding, but instead of three applications, one, for example.”
Gipson said the funding for tick-born illnesses — which is among the highest in the nation in the Hudson Valley — needs to be increased.
“This is really an epidemic rising here within our state,” he said. “We have an opportunity to try to bring some kind of resolutions to it, to really help those suffering now.”