From the beautiful hallways of your historic state Capitol, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
Not too many years ago, if you were diagnosed with serious types of cancer, you had to leave Arkansas for treatment.
It’s hard to imagine. Besides the emotional trauma of being diagnosed with cancer, patients and their families were saddled with the additional stress and expense of having to travel to Minnesota or Houston. Thankfully, that is changing.
The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences formalized plans for a cancer institute in 1984. Since then, it has steadily grown and improved, with help from private donations and appropriations from the Arkansas legislature.
During this year’s legislative session, we took a giant step toward making the cancer institute a world class facility.
The legislature approved measures that accelerate the designation of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at UAMS as a National Cancer Institute.
We also raised more than $10 million annually to pay for the necessary upgrades.
The funding will come from higher taxes on cigarette papers, taxes on medical marijuana and additional revenue resulting from an increase in the maximum prices allowed on cigarettes.
Getting the designation as a national cancer institute is highly competitive. Currently, there are 70 institutes in 36 states. The nearest ones are in Dallas, Oklahoma City and a pediatric cancer facility in Memphis.
On a related note, the bill that generates revenue for the cancer institute also raises the minimum legal age for buying tobacco products, from 18 to 21.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.