Advocates across North Carolina have been hard at work on state and federal levels to bolster policy priorities and access to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias from a public health perspective.
State Advocacy Progress
In 2018, a piece of legislation called Building Our Largest Dementia Infrastructure (BOLD) was enacted at the federal level. This legislation created funding for Alzheimer’s Centers of Excellence across the country to increase the public health impact communities can have on cognitive decline and the diseases that cause them. North Carolina is fortunate to have one of these centers in Winston Salem at the Sticht Center for Healthy Aging and Alzheimer’s Prevention at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. North Carolina applied for and received a Core Capacity Grant, to begin building the infrastructure within the Division of Public Health and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. This allowed North Carolina to hire a BOLD coordinator within the Division of Public Health and this year, make a formal update to North Carolina’s state dementia plan, Dementia-Capable North Carolina, that was previously introduced in 2016 to the General Assembly and the public. The new state plan update is exciting news and is focused on several key areas. The New Chapter to the State Plan is called, “Strategies to Promote Brain Health Across the Lifespan.” The aim of this chapter is to allocate funding or integrate activities into existing agreement addenda to encourage local health departments in North Carolina to develop programs to address brain health using interventions and best practices. The ultimate goal of the 2022 NC State Plan Update is to spread information on Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia throughout all N.C. counties with a focus on rural and minority communities, drive people to effective diagnosis, and create public health strategies that help N.C. families begin to reduce their risk of cognitive decline through healthy lifestyle strategies. This new Chapter on Brain Health will be presented to the North Carolina General Assembly in 2022 during this current legislative session, which began at the end of February.
Federal Advocacy Activity
In February, advocates across North Carolina met with the district offices of their congressional representatives to discuss important Alzheimer’s priorities. The district meetings take place each year as a part of our federal advocacy program outreach and serve as a valuable way to build relationships with congressional district staff.
This year the meetings focused on two legislative priorities: addressing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed coverage decision for FDA-approved Alzheimer’s treatments and an appropriations request for $289 million in research funding through the NIH & $20 million for the BOLD Act (mentioned above). In addition to our important policy priorities, our advocates shared information about our care and support services offered throughout North Carolina, so congressional district staff is up-to-date on the work the Alzheimer’s Association is doing in the community.
Across 14 meetings, advocates were able to connect these priorities to their personal experiences to highlight the need for more support for those living with Alzheimer’s disease. Through our advocacy efforts during the district meetings, Congressman Ted Budd (NC-13) and Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (NC-5) submitted a letter urging CMS to expand coverage for Alzheimer’s treatments. The appropriations process is still ongoing, so we will continue to ask Congress to increase research funding through the NIH by $289 million. Over the last 10 years, advocates have been instrumental in increasing the total NIH funding to over $3.1 billion.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most critical public health issues in America. This is why we are unrelentingly advocating for public policies that increase critical research funding and support all those affected. Now is the time to join us.
There have been great strides in policy, but there is still much work to be done. To continue gaining support for our policies, volunteer advocates will continue to share their stories with their legislators in the coming months. Interested in learning more about our advocacy program at either the state or federal level?