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Letter to Tom Harkin and Arlen Specter, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education, Re: Support Critical Alzheimer's Programs


Location: Washington, DC

Senators Clinton and Collins Call for Support of Critical Alzheimer's Programs

Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Susan Collins (R-ME), co-chairs of the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease, joined other members of the Task Force to urge support for Alzheimer's programs for families and caregivers. In a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, the Senators called for $13 million in funding for two vital programs that support families confronting Alzheimer's disease across the United States.

"As the baby boomers age, a growing number of families across the nation are coping with the terrible burden of Alzheimer's Disease. I urge my colleagues to support these important programs and the tireless family caregivers who rely on them," Senator Clinton said.

"Alzheimer's is a disease that can afflict any family. We must do more to raise awareness of the symptoms, support the patients and their families, and increase research efforts to find better treatments and, ultimately, a cure," said Senator Collins.

In the coming years, the number of older Americans with Alzheimer's will increase dramatically - as many as one in eight baby boomers will develop the disease. This incidence will place a heavy burden on a growing number of family caregivers, who provide care valued at more than $89 billion annually. These two programs provide critical support to individuals with Alzheimer's as well as their caregivers, offering education, training, and vital resources. Alzheimer's Disease Demonstration Grants allow states to pioneer key advances in the treatment of the disease, including access to care for traditionally underserved populations. Grants also provide targeted training to caregivers in remote rural areas without access to support networks. The National Call Center, which operates 24 hours a day, serves an estimated 270,000 persons with Alzheimer's disease, their families, and care providers.

As co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease, both Senators Clinton and Collins have worked with colleagues in the Senate to advance a multi-faceted policy agenda to address the issue. Senator Clinton has called for increased support for family caregivers, access to care coordination, and expanded research into best treatments. In March, the Senate approved a Clinton-sponsored amendment to the Fiscal Year 2009 budget that would provide full funding for the Lifespan Respite Care Act, which provides much-needed respite care services for family caregivers of individuals with special needs such as Alzheimer's disease.

The full text of the Senators' letter is below:

The Honorable Tom Harkin,
Senate Appropriations
Subcommittee on
Labor, Health, Human Services,
and Education
United States Senate
131 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Arlen Specter,
Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations
Subcommittee on
Labor, Health, Human Services,
and Education
United States Senate
156 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Specter:

As members of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease, we are writing to ask for your support for two vital programs addressing this devastating issue for older Americans. We support the important work of two programs - the Alzheimer's Disease Demonstration Grants to States (ADDGS), and the National Alzheimer's Call Center - both of which are operated through the Administration on Aging. In order to continue to promote innovative strategies to address this disease in communities around the United States, we urge you to support $1M in continued funding for the National Call Center, and $12M for ADDGS.

Alzheimer's Disease is a progressive and fatal brain disease that afflicts more than 5 million Americans. Alzheimer's destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work and family life. Today it is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.

Congress created the ADDGS in 1991, with the specific mission of expanding the availability of diagnostic and support services for persons with Alzheimer's disease, their families, and their caregivers. The program operates in 38 states, and has proven highly successful in targeting service and system development to traditionally underserved populations, including racial/ethnic minorities, persons of low-income, and rural families coping with Alzheimer's. Awards are given to states that adapt the funding to their specific needs. For example, in Maryland, the Department of Aging works with family caregivers in rural, underserved areas to improve the number of community partners that are capable of assisting families affected by dementia. The state of Maine uses ADDGS funds to provide all local offices for the Agency on Aging with an Alzheimer's Coordinator. Able to devote their time to facilitating access to services, these Coordinators can bring resources to the most remote and rural areas of this state.
In addition to these comprehensive service programs, caregivers need a point of contact in times of crisis. Caring for someone who has Alzheimer's disease can be overwhelming, exhausting and stressful. Caregiving challenges occur at all hours and often require immediate intervention and attention. The nationwide Alzheimer's Call Center provides telephone support, crisis counseling and information and referral services in 140 languages - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year - to an estimated 270,000 persons with Alzheimer's disease, their families, and care providers. For those in rural areas, the Call Center is often the only way caregivers can obtain immediate information, crisis counseling and educational services.

If these programs are forced to terminate due to lack of funding, millions of individuals across the country will be without these innovative, effective services. The advances we have achieved in understanding the best mechanisms for the care and treatment of afflicted individuals, as well as the support for their families, will be lost. Thank you for your consideration of our request, and your support for vulnerable older Americans across the country.

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