Phelps County resident Sara Ellis was one of the many Alzheimer’s ambassadors who walked the steps on memory and met with U.S. congressmen at the end of last month. Sara and the other ambassadors spoke with U.S. Representative Jason Smith as well as U.S. Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, to ask them to increase their commitment to Alzheimer’s research.

Earlier this year, Missouri residents traveled to the steps of the capital as part of the annual Alzheimer’s Memory Day event, and on March 29 they returned to petition Congress for further support of what is the 6th leading cause of death in America.

Phelps County resident Sara Ellis was one of the many Alzheimer’s ambassadors who walked the steps on memory and met with U.S. congressmen at the end of last month. Sara and the other ambassadors spoke with U.S. Representative Jason Smith as well as U.S. Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, to ask them to increase their commitment to Alzheimer’s research.

Congress has recently provided additional funding for research at the National Institute of Health (NIH), however according to Sara, the commitment “continues to fall short of the need.” In an email to The Rolla Daily News, Sara wrote “for every $100 the NIH spends on Alzheimer’s research, Medicare and medicaid spend $16,000 caring for those with the disease.”

According to a budget issued by the NIH, “Congress must continue it’s commitment to the fight against Alzheimer’s and other dementias by increasing funding for Alzheimer’s research by at least an additional $414 million in fiscal year 2018.” This increase would bring the budget to $1.3 billion. These figures were presented once more to the assembled congress members.

“They were, thankfully, supportive,” said Sara. She said that Senators McCaskill and Blunt, as well as Rep. Smith have written letters of support to the appropriate committee in the past, and she is hopeful they will do so again this year. She added that Sen. Blunt in particular has been a large supporter of Alzheimer’s research in the past.

Sara said the Alzheimer’s Association and the NIH have researched how the need should be addressed in order to effectively create change. She cited Eric Musieke, a neurologist from Washington University who performs research on the disease four days out of his week, and an additional day working at an Alzheimer’s clinic. Musieke claims that finding a method of preventing Alzheimer’s by 2025 is “very possible” with the right funding. He himself relies on research dollars from the NIH.

The goal dollar amount for Alzheimers research is $2 billion by the year 2025.  Sara said they don’t expect the change to happen overnight, but plan to petition Congress to increase the budget bit by bit over the coming years.

“Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America, costing an estimated $259 billion in 2017,” wrote Sara. “By mid-century, the number of people with the disease is set to nearly triple, and the costs are projected to more than quadruple.” In light of these numbers, a budget of $2 billion doesn’t seem quite as daunting.

Sara explained that if they meet the goal of the National Alzheimer’s Plan to have an effective treatment by 2025, Medicare spending on those with the disease would be reduced by nearly 25% in 2025 alone. Sara and the others hope that congress will see an investment in research as a tactic that will prevent a further loss of money in the future.

After their visit, Sara said the senators and representatives were incredibly receptive of what she and the others had to say, and Rep. Jason Smith was particular kind, and “very concerned about getting rural America the help they needed.”

It will be a while before Congress makes any sort of budget decisions for the 2018 fiscal year, so Sara and the others will have to wait to see if the budget increase will pass. Until then they are continuing to raise awareness and educate others on Alzheimer’s, as well as the proper care patients should receive.