Yesterday, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) sent a bipartisan letter to Senator Harry Reid, the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate, urging him to bring H.R. 2800, the Missing Alzheimer's Disease Patient Alert Program Reauthorization Act, to a vote before the full Senate this year. H.R. 2800 was introduced by Rep. Waters, reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee, and passed by the House of Representatives on September 11, 2012, without opposition by a voice vote.
The Congresswoman's letter was signed by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Co-Chair, Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease (R-NJ); Rep. Edward J. Markey, Co-Chair, Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease (D-MA); Rep. John Conyers, Ranking Member, House Judiciary Committee (D-MI); and Rep. Robert C. Scott, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security (D-VA). An identical letter was sent to Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, and copies were sent to Senator Patrick Leahy, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Chuck Grassley, the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The text of the letter follows:
"We write to urge you to bring H.R. 2800, the Missing Alzheimer's Disease Patient Alert Program Reauthorization Act, to a vote before the full Senate this year. This bipartisan bill reauthorizes a small but effective program that assists local law enforcement and protects vulnerable people with Alzheimer's disease. H.R. 2800 has been endorsed by both the Alzheimer's Association and the Alzheimer's Foundation of America and passed the House last week by a voice vote.
"Alzheimer's disease currently affects an estimated 5.3 million Americans, and that number will multiply in the coming decades as our population ages. 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% 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% 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 costs 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 are missing and reunite them with their families.
"The program was originally authorized in 1996, but it has been operating under an expired authorization since 1998. H.R. 2800 reauthorizes the program and authorizes $1 million per year in appropriations for fiscal years 2013 through 2017. This authorization level will allow the program to continue to operate at the FY 2012 funding level for the next five years. This small investment could 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.
"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 Alzheimer's patients to remain at home with people who love them. We hope you will support the passage of this bill during the remaining days of the 112th Congress."