San Diego County Board of Supervisors


Contacts: Steve Schmidt, 619-206-9108; Adam Kaye, 619- 531-5858


County steps up fight against Alzheimer's


The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday ramped up the region’s fight against Alzheimer’s disease as evidence mounts over the growing toll of the disease on families and taxpayers.

Supervisors unanimously approved a detailed, multi-year plan to speed up the search for a cure and boost services for those afflicted and their caregivers. The plan was developed by participants in The Alzheimer’s Project, a regional initiative launched in 2014 and led by Supervisor Dianne Jacob and Supervisor Dave Roberts.

“Last year we approved a promising blueprint for attacking Alzheimer’s. Today we moved to deliver on that promise,” Jacob said. “Alzheimer’s and other dementias are reaching epidemic levels and will overwhelm more and more families, along with health care providers and taxpayers, if we don’t act.”

Tuesday’s vote comes on the heels of two new county reports that provide the most detailed snapshot yet on the escalating impact of Alzheimer’s and other dementias across the county. About 60,000 residents have the disease, now the region’s third leading cause of death.

“I am so pleased by the progress we're making on The Alzheimer's Project and the depth of the new reports,” said Supervisor Dave Roberts, vice chairman of the board. “The findings validate our efforts in addressing this serious, public health issue.”

One of the reports, “The Economic Burden of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias in San Diego County,” examines the financial toll. It estimates the annual cost to hospitalize local dementia patients will roughly double by 2030, to upwards of $1.5 billion.

By that same year, the expected lifetime cost of caring for all those with dementia will range from $21 billion to $42 billion, adding to the tremendous financial strain on households, hospitals and the community.

The second report, “Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias in San Diego County,” looks at the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and the role of caregivers. It estimates the number of older residents with dementia will increase 56 percent by 2030.

The reports were released Friday by the county’s Health and Human Services Agency. County senior epidemiologist Leslie Ray spearheaded the studies.

A broad coalition of community leaders and experts are participating in The Alzheimer’s Project, including San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, philanthropist Darlene Shiley, Sheriff Bill Gore and Alzheimer’s Association President/CEO Mary Ball, along with physicians, residential care facility owners and world-class researchers. 

“The Alzheimer’s Project is breaking new ground in addressing this epidemic,” Ball said. “The level of collaboration is unprecedented and bodes well for the challenges ahead.”

With Tuesday’s vote, the Board of Supervisors adopted a multi-front plan of attack on Alzheimer’s, along with a timetable. The key initiatives include: 

• Launching an effort to raise $7 million over five years to bolster drug discovery research in San Diego to cure the disease. The Alzheimer’s Association is overseeing the fund, called Collaboration 4 Cure, and is seeking donations. The first round of research awards may be granted within a few months.

• Allowing online registration for families that want to enroll a relative in the Sheriff Department’s Take Me Home Program. The program assists those with dementia and others who may be prone to wander.

• Boosting training starting this year for those who work with Alzheimer’s patients and expand services and support for those with the disease and their caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Project is working with local institutions and others to pursue grants to help fund these efforts, which will include improving physician awareness of existing services.

• Developing the region’s first clinical standards for the screening, diagnosis and management of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. A team of doctors and health care system executives are already working on an initial draft of the standards.