San Diego County Board of Supervisors


Contact: Steve Schmidt, 619-206-9108,

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­NEWS RELEASE




When families come together over the holidays, there is often a heightened focus on the needs of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.

A new county-led pilot program is working to assist these families in moments of crisis.

The Alzheimer’s Response Team (ART), launched earlier this year in East County, links first-responders, social workers and others together to make sure those with the disease get the right type of help in an emergency.

“The team was created to provide a path for seniors in crisis and make sure they are steered to the most appropriate services,” said county Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “Alzheimer’s disease is taking a terrible and growing toll on San Diego, and we want to make sure those who suffer get the help they so badly need.”

Leading the initiative are county Aging & Independence Services, the Sheriff’s Department and other public agencies, along with the Grossmont Healthcare District, Sharp HealthCare and Alzheimer’s San Diego.

The county budgeted about $1 million to fund the effort, while the healthcare district board contributed $308,000 in critical seed money.

"We were compelled to act on the data showing that the disease rates in our region are the highest," said Michael Emerson, Grossmont Healthcare District board president. "The district recognized the power of collaboration in serving these families, and we're proud to support this innovative project."

Since June, the program has fielded 50 calls from agencies and first-responders within an area that includes Santee and Lakeside, communities with sizable senior populations.

“The Alzheimer’s Response Team is addressing an important goal of offering appropriate services to patients with dementia and their caregivers, tailored to their needs, which may avoid unnecessary visits to the emergency room and the potential risks of hospitalization,” said Dr. Nancy Greengold, chief medical officer at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

Dementia can cause those with the disease to become disruptive and violent, behaviors that can land them in jail or an emergency room when social service programs may be a better fit.

"The ART program gives first-responders vital training to recognize when a person may be living with dementia – and better options to handle the situation with care and compassion. But it doesn't end there," explained Eugenia Welch, president/CEO of Alzheimer's San Diego. "We don't simply deal with the moment of crisis and move on. The beauty of ART is that we work together to provide ongoing support to families in the aftermath, to help prevent future crises."   

ART assesses crisis calls made by community agencies and first-responders and then determines the most appropriate course of action. It has opened more than 20 cases over a roughly six-month period.

Team members include representatives from county Adult Protective Services, the Lakeside Fire District and the Santee Sheriff’s station.

Supervisor Jacob, joined by Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, spearheaded the creation of the team last year.

The program is an outgrowth of The Alzheimer’s Project, the county-led initiative to find a cure and help families struggling with the disease.

By 2030, the number of local residents 55 and older with dementia is expected to increase 36 percent – from more than 84,000 today to 115,000, according to a county study earlier this year.