Two Newberg residents were part of a 12-person team of Oregonians who recently ventured to Washington, D.C., to meet with the state delegation during the 2019 Alzheimer's Impact Movement Advocacy Forum.
Carol and Gary Hankins were part of a group of more than 1,000 people from across the country who converged on the nation's capital from March 31 to April 2 for the forum, urging members of Congress to invest in combatting Alzheimer's disease. The forum is a major advocacy event to raise awareness and increase congressional support for policies to improve the lives of the millions of Americans with the disease.
According to a press release from the Alzheimer's Association's Oregon & Southwest Washington Chapter, there are 67,000 Oregonians living with the disease, and there are about 186,000 caregivers.
"Unless Congress moves quickly to support researchers in finding — and communities in providing — better treatments, these costs will continue to grow along with the number of Americans affected, and Alzheimer's will increasingly overwhelm our health care system," Gary Hankins said. "Now more than ever, we must advocate to ensure Alzheimer's remains a public health priority for our elected officials, both in Washington and around the country."
The Hankins' and the 10 other Oregonians met on Capitol Hill with Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Greg Walden, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader. The advocates discussed several things with their congressional leaders, including the impact of legislative policies focused on providing researchers, healthcare professionals, caregivers and individuals with the educational tools and resources necessary to meaningfully combat the disease.
The advocates called on members of Congress to support $350 million in federal funding for research at the National Institutes of Health, which has seen funding fall short of what researchers need to address Alzheimer's, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
Advocates will also call on Congress to appropriate $20 million fund the Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer's Act, which was signed into law in December. The BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer's Act will create the public health infrastructure to implement intervention efforts, such as increasing early detection and diagnosis, reducing risk and preventing avoidable hospitalizations.
"The BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer's Act will establish Alzheimer's Centers of Excellence to expand and promote effective Alzheimer's interventions by providing state and local public health departments with the funding and resources needed to promote cognitive health and disease awareness, while also supporting the needs of caregivers and individuals living with the disease across Oregon and the country," said Sara Kofman, public policy director for the Alzheimer's Association Oregon & Southwest Washington Chapter.
The CDC is working to implement the BOLD plan. However, awards and grants to public health departments can't happen until the Centers of Excellence receive their fiscal year 2020 funds appropriated by Congress.
Carol Hankins's mother died of Alzheimer's, and her father was also impacted by dementia. She has worked as a volunteer long-term care ombudsman. Gary Hankins is a psychologist.
"When meeting with my legislators, I (emphasized) that I am but one of thousands in Oregon and millions across the country who are fighting Alzheimer's on the frontlines, every day," Carol Hankins said in a press release. "Our members of Congress have the opportunity to support their constituents and fellow Americans in this fight by funding research to uncover Alzheimer's treatment breakthroughs and, one day, a cure; as well as by enhancing care and support services for people living with disease and their loved ones."
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