Gabbie, a 10-year-old Bentonville resident, has been raising money for the last three years for Alzheimer’s and dementia research. She recently wrote to me about her dedication and support in the quest to find a cure for her father’s dementia. Her tremendous efforts are inspiring and I am proud to say that Washington is supporting the search for a cure. This Congress, we dedicated record-level funding to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease research in hopes of helping Gabbie and others whose loved ones have been devastated by this cruel disease.
More than 50,000 Arkansans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It is estimated that just as many are living with the disease but are undiagnosed. This is our nation’s deadliest and most expensive disease, costing $277 billion a year including $186 billion to Medicare and Medicaid. Without a breakthrough, it’s projected that by 2050 the cost will balloon to more than $1 trillion a year to treat the 16 million Americans predicted to be diagnosed with the disease.
As a member of the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, I’m fighting to reverse this trend. In September, Congress increased funding for Alzheimer’s research at the National Institutes of Health to $2.34 billion. I was proud to support the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill that prioritizes investments in medical research to fight Alzheimer’s. This funding level is above the $2 billion goal established for research by the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease and will allow for expanded research to develop prevention, treatment and a cure.
Additionally, this Congress I was proud to support the Building Our Largest Dementia Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act, introduced by Sen. Susan Collins, Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee. This legislation would create a public health infrastructure to combat Alzheimer’s disease similar to the successful framework that has helped us prevent once-deadly communicable diseases. Replicating this comprehensive approach is a step in the right direction.
The bill would establish Centers of Excellence in Public Health Practice dedicated to promoting effective Alzheimer’s disease and caregiving interventions, as well as educating the public on the disease. These centers would implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Aging Public Health Road Map and empower communities to improve the quality of life for patients and caregivers as well as aid social services on the frontlines of this battle. There is an urgent need to respond to this crisis. It’s clear that more assistance is necessary.
President Ronald Reagan first announced November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Month in 1983. Sadly, this disease robbed him of his memories and his independence, and today too many Americans are facing the same prognosis.
It’s likely that we all know someone who is touched by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. I am committed to providing resources and creating policies that will help find a cure and help provide families like Gabbie’s hope for a bright future.