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Ms. WATERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I thank Chairman Lamar Smith for his support for H.R. 2800, the Missing Alzheimer's Disease Patient Alert Program Reauthorization Act. This bill reauthorizes a small, but effective, program that assists local law enforcement and protects vulnerable people with Alzheimer's disease. I appreciate the chairman's willingness to work with me and move this bill forward.
Alzheimer's disease currently affects an estimated 5.3 million Americans, and that number will multiply in the coming decades as our population grows. The Alzheimer's Association estimates that 7.7 million Americans will have Alzheimer's by the year 2030, and 11 to 16 million Americans will have the disease by the year 2050.
One great risk for Alzheimer's patients is wandering away from home. According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 60 percent of Alzheimer's patients are likely to wander. Wanderers are vulnerable to dehydration, weather conditions, traffic hazards, and individuals who prey on vulnerable seniors. Up to 50 percent of Alzheimer's patients who wander will become seriously injured or die if they are not found within 24 hours of their departure from home.
Wanderers often cannot remember who they are or where they live and cannot assist law enforcement officials and other first responders who try to help them.
The Missing Alzheimer's Disease Patient Alert Program is a Department of Justice program that provides competitive grants to nonprofit organizations to assist in paying for the cost of planning, designing, establishing, and operating programs to protect and locate missing patients with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. These grants help local communities and public safety agencies quickly identify persons with Alzheimer's disease who wander or who are missing and reunite them with their families.
The program was originally authorized in 1996, but has been operating under an expired authorization since 1998. H.R. 2800 reauthorizes the program and authorizations $1 million per year in appropriations for fiscal years 2013 through 2017. This authorization level will allow the program to operate at the funding year 2012 funding level for the next 5 years.
This program is extremely cost effective. An annual appropriation of simply $1 million would easily result in millions more in savings for the Federal Government by allowing more Alzheimer's patients to remain at home with their families, thereby reducing nursing-home utilization and saving Medicare and Medicaid expenses.
H.R. 2800 is cosponsored by 18 Members of Congress, including Congressman Chris Smith and Congressman Ed Markey, the cochairs of the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease. The bill is also supported by both the Alzheimer's Association and the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.
This program saves law enforcement officials valuable time and allows them to focus on other security concerns. It also reduces unintentional injuries and deaths among Alzheimer's patients, brings peace of mind to their families, and thus allows more patients to remain at home with people who love them.
I urge my colleagues to support this bill, and I yield back the balance of my time.
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