The History of the Arkansas Spinal Cord Commission
The Arkansas Spinal Cord Commission (ASCC) is a state agency designed to identify and meet the unique and life long needs of Arkansans with spinal cord disabilities. Established in 1975, the ASCC was part of a general effort, initiated by Mrs. Jane Smith, to improve care for spinal cord injured individuals.
Mrs. Smith's interest in spinal cord injury began in 1957, when her mother was injured in a motor vehicle crash, resulting in quadriplegia. After initial treatment in a Memphis hospital, there was no place in Arkansas for Mrs. Smith's mother to receive rehabilitative care. Memphis doctors suggested she should take her mother home to die. After investigating other options, Mrs. Smith decided to take her mother to the New York Rehabilitation Institute, where she could work with Dr. Howard Rusk.
After Mrs. Smith's mother was released from the Institute, Mrs. Smith returned to Arkansas and worked tirelessly to call attention to the plight of those with spinal cord injuries in Arkansas. In 1974, with the aid of then Arkansas First Lady Betty Bumpers, Mrs. Smith set up the Spinal Cord Injury Task Force of the Arkansas League of Nursing. By going door to door throughout the counties of Arkansas, the nurses determined the number of Arkansans living with spinal cord disabilities. As they expected, the results of their census showed that there were many Arkansans living with spinal cord disabilities, enough to warrant state action.
In 1975, after lobbying by Mrs. Smith, Dr. Rusk and others, the Arkansas Legislature enacted Act 311 which established the Arkansas Spinal Cord Commission (ASCC) to provide a coordinated approach to early identification, emergency care, acute and rehabilitative treatment, and long term follow up. In 1977, the legislature expanded the role of ASCC with the passage of Act 330 which established a central registry, mandating all health providers and social agencies, both public and private, to report all persons with spinal cord disabilities to the registry within five days of their identification. Within fifteen days of the report, the Commission is required to notify the individual or family of their right to assistance, the services available and make referrals to the appropriate agencies to assure optimal rehabilitation. An innovative concept, ASCC was the first state agency of its kind in the nation, dedicated to the unique and complex needs of citizens with spinal cord disabilities.
Today, the Commission continues to provide a link between Arkansans with spinal cord disabilities and the treatment and services available. The ASCC has 13 case managers in offices throughout the state that follow their clients from the acute care hospital to the rehabilitation hospital to their discharge home and into the community, and provide a lifetime of follow-up services. The ASCC also provides other services such as a camp for children with spina bifida and other spinal cord disabilities at Camp Aldersgate, a central registry, a peer support program, an equipment recycling center, educational workshops, and an educational resource center on spinal cord injury.
In addition to improving services for individuals with a spinal cord disability, the Commission has worked to prevent spinal cord injuries and their secondary conditions. The Commission has participated in the "Buckle Up" program to publicize the Arkansas Seat Belt Law and promoted the "Check it Out Before You Dive" program to educate Arkansans about diving related spinal cord injuries, among other prevention initiatives. Presently, the Commission is involved in a project with the Centers for Disease Control to decrease the incidence of pressure sores in individuals with SCI and in a project identifying secondary conditions in persons with disabilities with the Arkansas Department of Health.