Blunt supports increase in research funding for National Institutes of Health | St. Louis Public Radio

Blunt supports increase in research funding for National Institutes of Health

Jun 24, 2015

The National Institutes of Health would see its largest increase in funding in more than a decade under a plan being considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday. It is set to take up a $153 billion spending plan approved earlier this week by the subcommittee that oversees funding for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education.  That plan includes a $2 billion  increase for NIH.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., chairs the subcommittee. Speaking with Missouri reporters in a conference call Wednesday, Blunt said the subcommittee “generally prioritized programs that had the most benefit for the most Americans, including health-care research.” He said the boost in funding for NIH would have “the most impact on American cures as opposed to treatment -- looking at the human genome and other things that allow research to head in a dramatically different direction.”

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Credit National Human Genome Research Institute

In an oped article for The Hill, Wednesday, Blunt said, “NIH-funded research has raised life expectancy, improved quality of life, and is an economic engine helping to sustain American competitiveness. ... NIH-funded biomedical research is the catalyst behind many of the advances that are now helping Americans live longer and healthier lives.”

If approved, Blunt said, the increase would lift NIH funding to $32 billion, a more than 7 percent increase over its current level.  

The funding plan would add $200 million in support for what Blunt called “precision medicine.”  A concept that he said “will allow physicians to individualize treatments to patients based on their unique genetic makeup … to specifically target a cure rather than move forward with a one-size-fits-all treatment.” Other specific funding provision within NIH include

  • $350 million increase for the National Institute on Aging, which researches Alzheimer’s disease
  • $135 million for the BRAIN initiative to map the human brain
  • $461 million to combat antibiotic resistance

Blunt said antibiotics have been “used successfully to treat patients for more than 70 years, but over time the drugs have become less effective, as organisms adapt to the drugs designed to kill them.”

Missouri universities and research organizations received more than $467 million in NIH funding last year, according to Blunt. 

Other Health and Human Services provisions

Community Health Centers throughout the state serve 460,000 patients. Those services are provided at more than 200 sites with 28 organizations receiving more than $70 million in federal funding.

The bill includes a $5 million increase for a program to support training for pediatric providers -- the increase raises that amount to $270 million nationally. St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City each receive $5 million a year in funding through the program.

$3.8 million would go to the Preventative Health and Health Services Block Grant in Missouri out of $160 million nationally.  Blunt said his subcommittee kept funding level for this despite an Obama administration proposal to eliminate the program.

The bill also includes a provision sponsored by Blunt that directs the HHS secretary to implement an education campaign to inform breast cancer patients about the availability and required insurance coverage of breast reconstruction surgery.

Department of Labor funding highlights

Funding for the Department of Labor would include $1.7 billion for the Job Corps program, the largest career technical training and educational program in the U.S. for youth.  The three Missouri Job Corps centers are in St. Louis, Excelsior Springs and Mingo.

YouthBuild, a program designed to help at-risk high school drop-outs develop skills necessary to find employment is slated to receive $80 million.  The state has three YouthBuild programs in St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia.

The bill sustains $270 million for veterans employment and training as well as skills training for 17,000 for homeless veterans nationally. 

Department of Education highlights in Missouri

Low-income school districts across the state receive about $240 million annually in flexible funding that allows districts to decide how best to use the money to improve student outcomes. The bill includes a $150 million increase nationally above current funding.

Another program being maintained by the subcommittee provides money to school districts impacted by the presence of federally owned land and activities, such as military bases. The federal government doesn’t pay property taxes, which support local schools. Missouri school districts receive about $26-million annually.  

Pell Grant awards would increase to $5,915 from $5,775 for the 2016-17 school year.  Students at Missouri colleges and universities will receive about $619-million in Pell Grants this coming school year, according to a release from Blunt's office.

Other agency funding

Missouri’s four public TV stations and the state’s 11 public radio stations receive about $9.7 million a year through a formula for distributing funds through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  The subcommittee bill would provide $445 million to the CPB nationally for the fiscal year beginning in October 2017 -- level with funding for the fiscal year that begins in October 2016.  The bill also authorizes CPB to use funds previously appropriated to initiate the first phase of replacing and upgrading equipment used to provide technical connections between TV stations.