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Reps. Smith, Waters Announce Expansion of Alzheimer’s Task Force in House

January 30, 2015
Press Release

Reps. Smith, Waters Announce Expansion of Alzheimer's Task Force in House

Bipartisan caucus welcomes new co-chairs Reps. Burgess, Fattah

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), current co-chairs of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease, announced today that Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) and Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) will join them as new co-chairs for the 114th  Congress.
    "I am pleased that Reps. Burgess and Fattah have agreed to bring their vision and expertise to our team," said Rep. Smith, who in 1999 founded the Task Force with then-Rep. Ed Markey. "Alzheimer's is a national epidemic, and more research, better treatments, and support for caregivers must remain a top priority. Both Rep. Burgess and Rep. Fattah have been vocal in raising awareness about this devastating illness, and in offering solutions to help alleviate its impact on American families.  Maxine and I are pleased to welcome them to serve in leadership roles on the Task Force."


    "I am pleased that Reps. Chaka Fattah and Michael Burgess will be joining Rep. Chris Smith and myself as co-chairs of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease," said Rep. Maxine Waters, who has co-chaired the Task Force with Rep. Smith for two years. "I am confident that under our collective leadership, the Task Force will be able to make Alzheimer's and the families affected by it a priority in Congress."


    The Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease is a bi-partisan, bicameral group of like-minded Members of Congress dedicated to raising awareness of the impact Alzheimer's disease and promoting effective policies in the legislative and executive branches. The organization also seeks to further initiatives designed to help those who currently suffer from this form of dementia, an incurable neurological condition affecting an estimated 5.2 million Americans, as well as support families and caregivers.


    "It is a privilege to join as a caucus co-chair and work within Congress to advocate for policies, research, and funding that will advance our efforts to fight Alzheimer's disease," said Rep. Fattah, architect of the Fattah Neuroscience Initiative. "Degenerative diseases are a top priority in the neuroscience field and the need for action on Alzheimer's grows by the day as the United States and nations around the world confront its crippling social and economic effects. I thank my fellow co-chairs for their longstanding efforts, and look forward to making more progress on this issue in the 114th Congress."


    According to the Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. Alzheimer's currently costs Americans $150 billion annually in Medicare and Medicaid programs alone, with out-of-pocket and other associated costs bringing that number to $214 billion.


    Rep. Burgess, who was a practicing medical doctor for 30 years prior to entering Congress, said that "as a physician, it is instinctive to want to work on issues that will alleviate pain and suffering for patients.


    "Alzheimer's disease is one of the most prevalent neurological diseases, and it is also one of the most painful, not just for the patient, but for the family members and caregivers," Rep. Burgess said. "Through the hard work of this Task Force, we will do all we can to mitigate Alzheimer's for the sake of the health of our society, economy and families."


    Across the United States, over 15 million family members and friends provide an estimated 17 billion hours of unpaid care for individuals with Alzheimer's and other dementias. The economic costs of unpaid care are estimated to be more than $200 billion annually, as more Americans leave their jobs and other obligations to devote time to caregiving.


    "Alzheimer's disease causes great suffering and extracts too high a toll on our families and loved ones. In the 114th Congress, legislators must work together to reverse the trajectory of this terrible illness by improving outcomes for Alzheimer's patients, providing assistance to their caregivers, and ultimately finding a cure for this disease," said Smith, who also is chairman of the House subcommittee which oversees global health issues and held the first ever congressional hearing examining the global strategies to address Alzheimer's disease, entitled "Global Strategies to Combat the Devastating Health and Economic Impacts of Alzheimer's Disease" in 2011, and a second in 2013.  He and Markey co-authored the bipartisan National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA) (P.L. 111-375), which requires the creation of an annually-updated strategic National Alzheimer's Plan to fight Alzheimer's and help those with the disease and their families.