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San Diego County Board Of Supervisors Launching ‘The Alzheimer’s Project’

Evening Edition

Aired 5/7/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUESTS:

Mary Ball, President CEO, Alzheimer's Association of San Diego

Kenn Ulrich, Caregiver

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday launched a plan to increase support to caregivers of Alzheimer's patients and for scientific research into the disease.

The disease is "reaching epidemic proportions," taking a toll on San Diego County households and the healthcare system and is the third leading cause of death in the county, according to Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Dave Roberts.

"A diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is a death sentence -- at least right now," Jacob said. "It's time to team up and take on this killer."

What Jacob and Roberts call "The Alzheimer's Project" is designed to bring together caregivers and scientists in a way that will improve patient care and treatment.

More than 60,000 area residents suffer from Alzheimer's, and 80 percent are cared for at home, according to the supervisors. The figure is expected to double by 2030.

The supervisors directed staffers to solicit input from caregivers, researchers and organizations to develop a countywide plan to improve a network of available services, create a public education campaign on spotting warning signs of the disease and support legislation that increases funding for research or caregivers.

"As the region's largest public health agency, the county can, should and will play a pivotal role in raising awareness and helping families dealing with the disease," Jacob said. "The Alzheimer's Project will focus on two issues -- care and cure."

Staff will report back on their findings in the fall.

Jacob and Roberts said there are "a lot of encouraging signs" on the research front, including a nationwide initiative launched by neuroscientists in January to study a protein that might play a role in Alzheimer's.

"I would hope that there is a cure out there, and that maybe in San Diego County we can be on the cutting edge of bringing those services that are needed to many people that are going to contract this disease," Supervisor Ron Roberts said.

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