Posted by: yacmichigan | April 6, 2015

Sen. Debbie Stabenow touts Alzheimer’s legislation in Saginaw

Sen. Debbie Stabenow touts Alzheimer’s legislation in Saginaw

Reposted from MLive.com, April 6, 2015, http://www.mlive.com/news/saginaw/index.ssf/2015/04/sen_debbie_stabenow_touts_alzh.html#incart_river

SAGINAW TOWNSHIP, MI — Michigan’s senior senator is on a mission: to provide a better support system for the estimated 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s and more than 15 million friends and family members who serve as their caregivers.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow stopped at a newly-constructed elder care facility in Saginaw Township Thursday, April 2, to talk about legislation she has introduced to accomplish that mission.

“The early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be terrifying for individuals and their families, especially when they don’t know what’s happening and don’t have a diagnosis,” Stabenow said. “The HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act will give Alzheimer’s patients and their families the information and support they need to cope with this heartbreaking disease.”

Stabenow met with about 50 people in Saginaw to talk about the legislation and issues surrounding the disease.

If enacted, she said, the new laws would created a new care management program under Medicare to help patients, their families and caregivers to develop individual treatment plans for those suffering from the chronic neurodegenerative disease.

“This really is a family disease,” Stabenow said.

As a venue for the discussion, the senator chose the new Great Lakes PACE facility at 3378 Fashion Square Boulevard in Saginaw, which plans to begin offering a one-stop-shop for various elder care services starting on May 1.

One of those gathered to talk with the lawmaker Thursday was Christine Stockford, who works as a social worker at Great Lakes PACE.

Stockford said she could relate with something Stabenow said about a lack of support systems available to the families of those suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“I was that family that was impacted,” she said. “I was that daughter on the Internet searching for what to do. And we really would have valued someone who could come in and talk with us and educate and give us resources and places to turn to. So I very much support your effort and really appreciate it.”

Stabenow acknowledged that finding a cure for Alzheimer’s is also of primary importance, saying she is working with others in Congress to call for additional funding for research at the National Institutes of Health. She said he goal is to get $2 billion set aside for Alzheimer’s research.

“That can happen,” Stabenow said. “That should happen.”

She pointed to a statistic that shows $1 of every $5 spent through Medicare is spent on Alzheimer’s treatment, saying that finding a cure and finding more efficient means of treatment has the potential to dramatically reduce healthcare costs in the long-term.

Susan Erspamer is vice president of chapter programs for the Greater Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Erspamer said another way ordinary people can help find a cure is to help link researchers running clinical trials with patients at all stages of the disease. The easiest way to do that, she said, is through the “trial match program” available on the association’s website, ALZ.org.

Erspamer praised the senator’s efforts, saying much can be done to help all those the disease impacts.

“There is no cure for the disease,” she said. “But there is a lot we can do for the families and those with the disease so they can live a happy, healthy life.”

The association, Erspamer said, has already been able to get $150,000 in funding through the state government for a three-county pilot program that sends social workers into the homes of Alzheimer’s patients to help create care plans.

The program, which is running in Macomb, Monroe and St. Joseph counties, is very similar to what Stabenow’s legislation would achieve on a much larger scale, Erspamer said.

Karen Courneya, director of the Saginaw County Commission on Aging, told Stabenow that local agencies like hers are prepared to offer more education and treatment programs to help patients and their families. But there is a gap when it comes to funding for those programs, Courneya said.

“We have all of the systems already in place,” she said. “Really, the money is an issue. We stand ready.”

The two bills making up the legislative package Stabenow is promoting are collectively called the “Health Outcomes, Planning and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer’s Act,” and have been introduced as S. 857 and H.R. 1559.

The bills were introduced on March 24 and 25. The Senate bill was referred to the Committee on Finance and the House bill to the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Ways and Means.

Mark Tower covers local government for MLive/The Saginaw News. Contact him at 989-284-4807, by email at mtower@mlive.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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