Supervisor Jacob Remarks at Board of Supervisors Update on The Alzheimer's Project

March 1, 2016

One year ago, this Board approved a road map for attacking what may be the biggest public health challenge in our region: Alzheimer’s disease. This morning, we’re going to look at how far we’ve come – and what comes next

Families all across San Diego County need help. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are taking a huge toll on the region, and families can’t fight them alone. 

That’s why we created The Alzheimer’s Project in 2014, to bring together our best ideas and brightest minds to end this epidemic. 

For the first time, we’ve got our top researchers, neurologists, eldercare experts, public universities, health care systems and others all working together to find a cure and boost care. Alzheimer’s San Diego is playing a key role in all this, along with many generous donors. 

I don’t believe any other part of the country has done anything like this. Taking on a challenge this big requires a huge commitment and a huge army of participants. Today, we have both.

While we have a lot of work ahead of us, we’ve started to break new ground. 

I’m excited to announce this morning that The Alzheimer’s Project has developed the region’s first standards for the diagnosis and management of the disease and other forms of dementia. 

This is a big breakthrough. Until now, many of our region’s 3,500 primary care doctors haven’t had clear, consistent standards on what Alzheimer’s looks like, and often patients are not properly diagnosed. 

With this critical new tool, physicians will be able to identify those with dementia faster and help them get the resources they need. This is great news for families who are worried sick about their loved one.I want to thank those on The Alzheimer’s Project Clinical Roundtable who developed these standards. Some physicians at Scripps Health are giving them a trial run.   

Nearly all our major health care institutions back this effort, including Kaiser, Scripps Health, UCSD and Sharp Rees-Stealy. There’s even talk of developing an app to link doctors to the diagnostic tools. 

Dr. Michael Lobatz, a neurologist at Scripps Health, is here to talk about these new standards. He co-chaired the clinical panel with Dr. Nick Yphantides, the County’s chief medical officer, who is also with us this morning. 

Some of our other successes in the past year:

We strengthened the safety net for those with dementia, through improvements in the region’s alert system and the Take Me Home program run by the Sheriff’s Department. 

We launched a one-of-a-kind research incubator on Torrey Pines Mesa to help pave the way for a cure. This effort is funded by generous donations to Collaboration4Cure, a grant program run by Alzheimer’s San Diego.

We teamed up with our largest public universities to boost training for the next generation of geriatric health care workers, thanks to a $2.5 million federal grant awarded to San Diego State University. 

I want to thank my colleagues for helping to move many of these initiatives forward. Supervisor Ron Roberts led our efforts last year to beef up the region’s Alert San Diego system. 

Supervisor Cox is working hard to bring a memory care unit to the Chula Vista Veterans Home. I know helping older veterans is also a priority for Supervisor Horn. 

I want to thank those who joined me on The Alzheimer’s Project Steering Committee, including Mayor Faulconer, philanthropist Darlene Shiley, Sheriff Bill Gore, Dr. Michael Lobatz and Mary Ball with Alzheimer’s San Diego. 

It’s also been great teaming up with Mayor Kevin Faulconer. I’m pleased to hear he will be coming by shortly to make a few comments. 

The 2016 Alzheimer’s Project annual report being presented today outlines how far we’ve come – and the hard work ahead.

We’re off to a strong start, but the impact of the epidemic continues to outrun us.

The County today is issuing a separate report that includes updated figures on the growing impact of the disease. At least 62,000 local residents 55 and older have some form of dementia. The report says that number will grow to nearly 100,000 by 2030.

So, if we’re going to end this epidemic, we must build on the work of The Alzheimer’s Project. 

Helping caregivers is a top priority. About eighty percent of those with Alzheimer’s are cared for at home – often by a daughter or son.

That sort of caregiving takes a great mental and physical toll, and we need to do all we can to help those family members. 

We have started to take steps to boost respite services for caregivers. They need a break. This year, we need to do more.

Other items on our to-do list include launching a public awareness campaign on elder abuse and tapping into GPS technology to reduce wandering – a huge concern among families dealing with Alzheimer’s. 

Meanwhile, our top local brain researchers are continuing their search for a cure. Eight of them have received grants through Collaboration4Cure for drug development projects. 

This morning, we’ll hear from leaders of the four legs of The Alzheimer’s Project – cure, care, clinical and public awareness and education.