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Friday, August 18, 2017

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, AUGUST 18, 2017

ALZHEIMER'S EARLY DIAGNOSIS PROJECT TAKES SHAPE

On August 10, The Department of Human Services called an initial planning meeting to hear how some $4.12 million in funding will be used to begin a statewide Alzheimer's early diagnosis and treatment program. Emory University is the Department's partner and is developing the implementation plan of diagnosis and care.

Emory is proposing a pilot program with 5 sites for Memory Assessment Clinics (MAC) modeled after the Emory Brain Health Center program.

The goal will be to educate physicians and medical professionals around the state on how to screen for a beginning diagnosis. Family physicians will be the key to the early diagnosis and cognitive assessments. They will be trained to identify symptoms and refer to an Area Memory Assessment Clinic where further testing will take place. Fifty thousand dollars will be provided to each Memory Assessment Clinic for an Education Coordinator working with Area Agencies on Aging and local support agencies.

Primary care physicians would continue care but with a better understanding of the possible effects of Alzheimer's in the health of the patient.


BACKGROUND ON "GARD"

Georgia Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementia (GARD) found in 2016 that 80% of Georgians with Perceived Cognitive Impairment (PCI) had not discussed the symptoms of memory loss with a physician and thus had received no treatment for the condition. There are approximately 140,000 Georgians who have Alzheimer's Disease.

Three of the counties in the Fourth Senatorial District are in the Area Aging District that has a higher prevalence of Perceived Cognitive Impairment of between 15-17% of the region. The other three counties are in an Area Aging District with between 11 and 13% with PCI.

For more information on the GARD State Plan, go to aging.georgia.gov and click on "get involved."

In Georgia, the estimated cost of savings of implementing a program for early diagnosis and treatment translates to $1.25 Billion and possibly as much as $1.55 billion.

Care for those with symptoms can be hard to find. Emory has a waiting list of some 13 months for appointments with their Cognitive Neurology Clinic. This is the only one in the state and one of a small number in the Southeast.
So the value of access to diagnostic centers with linkage to primary care specialty services and other social and community services is very high.


HOW THE SYSTEM WILL WORK

--The Department of Human Services (DHS) will contract with Emory to provide a statewide system of diagnosis and care effective this month. Emory will sub-contract to establish 5 Memory Assessment Clinics (MAC) in year one modeled after the Emory Brain Health Center protocols.

--MACs will function independently as assessment centers partnered with local primary care centers, Area Agencies on Aging, Alzheimer's Association and The Rosalyn Carter Institute for Caregiving and other relevant services providers.

--Training, funding and ongoing evaluation will be provided to each MAC by Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.


MEMORY ASSESSMENT CLINICS IDENTIFIED
Three sites have been identified as Memory Assessment Clinics and agreements will be finalized over the next few months. Sites include the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon and Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. Possible additional sites are being pursued in Savannah, Athens, Rome and Albany.


PRIMARY TRAINING
The training of physicians is a key component of the Georgia Alzheimer's Project (GAP). GAP has established partnerships with the Georgia academy of Family Physicians and they are in the development stages of planning training for physicians. GAP also has initiated partnerships with primary and internal medicine residency programs. Also GAP is partnering with Grady Hospital's Urban Initiative with embedded connections to rural and urban Federally Qualified Health Centers. Other partners include Rosalyn Carter Institute, Georgia Alzheimer's Association, Georgia's Area Agencies on Aging, Department of Human Services Aging Services, Aging and Disabilities Resource network and the Fuqua Center for Late Life Depression.

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