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Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Representing the 43rd District of California

Safe Return Program for Alzheimer's Patients Amendment

August 6, 2009
Floor Statement

Rep. Maxine Waters [D-CA]: Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Wolf) for offering this amendment with me to restore funding for the Safe Return Program for Alzheimer's patients. I would also like to thank him and my colleague from West Virginia (Mr. Mollohan) for all their hard work on this bill.

Mr. Chairman and Members, I did become rather alarmed when I learned the Science, State, Justice, Commerce bill for fiscal year 2006 reported out of the Appropriations Committee had not funded Safe Return, and I am just so appreciative for Mr. Wolf's leadership and Mr. Mollohan's leadership in agreeing to make sure that this funding was restored.

An estimated 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, including one in 10 individuals over 65, with nearly half of those over 85. Sixty percent of Alzheimer's patients are likely to wander from their homes. Wanderers are vulnerable to dehydration, weather conditions, traffic hazards, and individuals who prey on those who are defenseless. Up to 50 percent of wandering Alzheimer's patients will become seriously injured or will die if they are not found within 24 hours.

The Safe Return Program for Alzheimer's patients is a Department of Justice program that helps local communities and law enforcement officials identify wandering Alzheimer's patients quickly and ensures their safe return home. Under the Safe Return Program, patients are enrolled in a confidential national computerized database and provided with an identity bracelet or other identifying materials, such as necklace, key chain, wallet card, or clothing labels. The identifying materials contain the patient's name and a toll free number to contact their family.

Since its inception 10 years ago, the Safe Return Program has registered over 143,000 individuals who may wander, and has united over 11, 200 wanderers with their families. The Safe Return Program was able to carry out its lifesaving work with an appropriation of $840,000 in fiscal year 2006. Unfortunately, this had, I guess, been overlooked for a while. But now that our colleagues have provided the leadership to put in $1 million, this program will remain in the budget. The Wolf-Waters amendment would restore the funding for this critical program and provides $1 million in fiscal year 2007, a slight increase over the 2006 funding level.

I know that we are all very pleased about this, so let me just remind my colleagues that we have families now, working families, and sometimes their parents, both parents, have Alzheimer's disease. We have many families that are struggling to take care of their children, go to work every day, and take care of their parents. This program helps so much because they will wander away. But with this funding and the Alzheimer's Association, working with the Justice Department, they can return many of these wanderers back to their families, and of course keep them safe.

I thank you so very much.