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Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute on Chopping Block

April 7th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

Floridas only Alzheimer Research Institute is facing closure. The Bryd Institute in Tampa is on the budget chopping block, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the lack of funding has as much to do with politics as it does tight budgets.

The Byrd Alzheimer Research Center in Tampa has cost Florida taxpayers over one hundred million dollars in the last 5 years. Last year, it got nothing. And not a dime is in this years budget. Without a minimum 5 million, former State Senator and now lobbyist John Grant says the institute will close.

We have the largest population ratio of Alzheimers of any state in the nation and of 17major research institutes that are credited, only 17 of them in the country, one of them is here, Grant said.

Part of the problem is politics.

Ninety percent of the institutes problems have to do with the man who pushed it through. During the two years he was Speaker, Johnny Byrd managed to make everybody mad at him.

Jim King was Senate President at the time and says bad memories die hard.

In normal life, friends ebb and flow, King said. In politics, enemies accumulate. And in this situation, there were just a lot of people who got their feelings hurt.

Almost half a million Floridians have Alzheimer. They also have a powerful advocate. Former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day OConnor, whose husband has dementia, says losing the Institute would be a crime.

If we really focused on it, for 15, maybe 20 years, we may have a solution, OConnor said.

Last minute maneuvering may save the Center. But because he rubbed so many people the wrong way, Johnny Byrd may find that the institute no longer carries his fathers name.

Also on the line is more than 100 high paying jobs.

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