AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Signed into law on New Year’s Eve, the BOLD (Building our Largest Dementia) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act focuses on public health, with plans to improve early intervention and screening, and increase research and analysis of current cases.
"BOLD, and everything within BOLD, all of the care and some of the diagnosis processes in BOLD haven't really been touched on and they're important and people didn't really realize how important they were because it kind of got pushed aside,” said Lauren Berry, an Alzheimer's Association Congressional Ambassador to Rep. Mac Thornberry. “Alzheimer's is a big epidemic and it's growing bigger."
According to numbers by the Alzheimer's Association, more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's, with disease-related costs exceeding a quarter of a trillion dollars each year.
Set to provide up to $100 million in funding over the next five years, the law will help focus on resources and support for caregivers, as well. As Amarillo grows as a regional medical hub with a number of assisted living facilities specializing in memory care and Alzheimer's treatment, caregiving support is key.
"Who do you know that has Alzheimer's or related dementias or who of your friends has family members or who is caring for somebody,” said Berry. “It's a big burden and there wasn't really anything before BOLD that kind of helped address some of the caretaking processes and relieve some stuff for caregivers.”
Berry, who helped take the fight to our congressional representatives in D.C., says the new law can help health organizations save money by preventing things like costly and avoidable hospitalizations.
"Early detection, early diagnosis and early intervention, to help the process as far as treating it, it helps save tons of money,” said Berry. "This is giving local money back to our health organizations to help with that."
With a number of other wins in the fight to end Alzheimer’s in 2018, like a multi-million dollar increase in research funding, local advocates are ready to keep the momentum going in the new year.
"BOLD obviously didn't come through until right at the end of the year so that was a good way for all of us to kind of wrap it up and say okay, everything we worked for all year long is finally successful,” said Berry. “This is it, we can move on to new stuff in 2019."
The Alzheimer’s Association also stresses the need for planning and prevention related to the disease, saying people living with Alzheimer’s are currently projected to triple to as many as 16 million in 2050, with costs rising to $1.1 trillion.