A bipartisan bill that would authorize $100 million in funding over five years to create a public health infrastructure to combat Alzheimer’s disease was passed unanimously by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Thursday. It now will be considered by the full Senate.

S. 2076, known as the Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act, was written by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) and introduced in November 2017. It is co-sponsored by 54 senators and supported by 181 organizations and individuals, including the Alzheimer’s Association, AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, Argentum and LeadingAge. Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Paul Tonko (D-NY) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives, and it is co-sponsored by 245 members.

“After decades of increasing investments in biomedical research for Alzheimer’s, we are ready for the next step: to translate research into practice,” Collins said. She is a founder and Senate co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease. “The BOLD Act takes a multi-pronged public health approach that would create a modern infrastructure for the prevention, treatment and care of Alzheimer’s and related dementias,” Collins added.

The act, if passed by Congress as written, would authorize $20 million annually over the next five years to establish:

  • Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Public Health Centers of Excellence to promote Alzheimer’s disease and caregiving interventions as well as educate the public about Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive decline and brain health. The centers would implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy Aging Public Health Road Map.
  • Cooperative agreements between the CDC and state health departments to help meet local needs in promoting brain health, reducing risk of cognitive decline, improving care for those with Alzheimer’s and other public health activities.
  • Data grants to improve the analysis and timely reporting of data on Alzheimer’s, cognitive decline, caregiving and health disparities at the state and national levels.

The United States spends more than $277 billion per year, including $186 billion in costs to the Medicare and Medicaid programs. More than five million Americans have the disease. Current estimates are that the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s could almost triple to as many as 14 million by 2050, costing the country more than $1.1 trillion annually.

Actress Marcia Gay Harden, whose mother has Alzheimer’s disease, advocated for passage of the BOLD Act at a Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing in June. Collins chairs the committee, and Cortez Masto is a member.

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