SUPERVISOR DIANNE JACOB

San Diego County Board of Supervisors

 

Contact: Steve Schmidt, 619-206-9108, steve.schmidt@sdcounty.ca.gov

 

NEWS RELEASE

3/1/16

 

COUNTY, PHYSICIANS UNVEIL NEW TOOL TO HELP THOSE WITH ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

 

San Diego County’s 3,500 primary care doctors are gaining a critical tool to diagnose and help the growing number of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob, joined by medical experts, today (March 1) announced the creation of the region’s first standards for the screening and management of dementia.

“Many primary care doctors haven’t had clear, consistent standards on what Alzheimer’s looks like and often patients are not properly diagnosed,” Jacob said. “But with this new tool, doctors will be able to identify those with dementia faster and help them get the resources they need.”

The standards were developed by medical experts gathered under the umbrella of The Alzheimer’s Project, the county-led effort to boost care and find a cure for the more than 62,000 San Diegans with dementia.

“We’re positioning San Diego as the nation’s top medical research hub in the race to beat Alzheimer’s – the third-leading cause of death in the region,” said Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, a member of The Alzheimer’s Project Steering Committee and Cure Roundtable. “San Diego is using its famous spirit of collaboration to bring together local scientists, philanthropists and research institutes to yield promising breakthroughs that could end the scourge of Alzheimer’s. I’m proud to be a part of this regional effort and harness the collaboration that is a part of San Diego’s DNA.”

Dr. Michael Lobatz, a neurologist at Scripps Health, and the county’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nick Yphantides, led the effort to craft the standards.

Scripps physicians have started using them on a trial basis, with primary care doctors at Kaiser Permanente, UC San Diego, Sharp Rees-Stealy and other health care systems expected to follow.

“I think what we are doing is a model for other regions, counties and states,” said Lobatz. “Dementia care in the U.S. is fragmented and piecemeal and depending on what door a patient and family walk through, they get very different care. This will help eliminate those differences.”

The announcement of the standards came as the county released the 2016 Alzheimer’s Project annual report, nearly a year after the Board of Supervisors approved a detailed road map for attacking the disease, the region’s third leading cause of death.

“For the first time, we have top researchers, neurologists, eldercare experts, public universities, health care systems and others working together to end this terrible epidemic,” said San Diego philanthropist Darlene Shiley, a leading participant. “This amazing level of teamwork is welcome news for families dealing with the devastating toll of dementia.”

Supervisor Jacob spearheaded the creation of The Alzheimer’s Project in 2014. Since then, it has:

• Strengthened the safety net for those with dementia, through improvements in the Sheriff’s Department’s Take Me Home program and the region’s missing persons alert system.

• Launched a one-of-a-kind research incubator on Torrey Pines Mesa to pave the way to a cure, tapping into the expertise of the region’s best and brightest brain researchers. This effort is funded by generous donations from Shiley and others to Collaboration4Cure, run by Alzheimer’s San Diego.

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

The county today also released 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.

The county is the region’s lead public health agency.

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