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Rep. Guthrie's Alzheimer's legislation is signed into law

Messenger-Inquirer - 1/19/2019

Jan. 19--A bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie that would expand Alzheimer's diagnosis, care and education on the disorder was signed into law earlier this month by President Trump.

Guthrie, a Bowling Green Republican, introduced the bill with co-sponsor Rep. Paul Tonko, a New York Democrat. Guthrie and Tonko's bill passed the House, a companion bill with bipartisan support passed the Senate and Trump signed Guthrie's version of the bill in early January.

The bill, the Building Our Largest Dementia Infrastructure for Alzheimer's Act, provides $20 million a year to award grants to create regional centers to convert research into Alzheimer's and other dementia disorders into intervention treatments, and to provide medical professionals and the public with information about research.

The bill also has a data gathering component, requiring timely reporting on the prevalence of Alzheimer's, information on caregiving and information on cognitive decline among people with Alzheimer's and associated disorders. The bill also creates agreements with health departments to inform the public about the disorder and similar disorders, to work on early detection and reduce cognitive decline, and to reduce hospitalizations, among other things.

"My great uncle ... had it. He had early onset" Alzheimer's, Guthrie said. "I've seen people suffering from it."

In 2016, there were 116,103 deaths associated with Alzheimer's disease in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Estimates say the United States will spend $1.1 trillion annually on Alzheimer's treatment by 2050, Guthrie said.

"There's no cure around the corner," Guthrie said in an interview earlier this week. But "there are (actions) and medications once you have Alzheimer's so you can deal with the onset." The goal is for people with Alzheimer's and similar disorders to maintain their quality of life for a longer period of time, he said.

The bill "essentially treats (Alzheimer's) like a public health emergency," Guthrie said. "... What we are trying to do is set up a network that moves (research) from innovation to implementation," he said, and part of the data collection is "making sure the data is flowing up to the CDC.

"The bottom line is it gives you back quality of life," Guthrie said.

Earlier this week, Guthrie was named the ranking Republican on the House of Representatives'Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. He said as the ranking Republican, he will work with Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, on investigations the committee takes up.

"I think the first thing we'll look at is HHS (the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). It's responsible for family reunification at the (southern) border," Guthrie said.

HHS and the Department of Homeland Security "have a process established to ensure that family members know the location of their children and have regular communication after separation to ensure that those adults who are subject to removal are reunited with their children for the purposes of removal," according to the HHS website.

Children were removed from parents at the border as part of what the HHS website calls its "Zero Tolerance" initiative. NBC News reported Thursday that "thousands more immigrant children were separated from their parents under the Trump Administration than previously reported, and whether they have been reunified is unknown," citing a report by the HHS inspector general's office.

Guthrie said the subcommittee would "look at how hard did HHS work to get (families) back together. I think it's important for everyone to understand what they did. They did not make the decision to separate them and did a good job trying to reunite them.

"I would like to make sure we did a good job with families at the border, and what happened," Guthrie said.

Guthrie was appointed Friday to the Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on Health and the Consumer Protection subcommittee. Guthrie is the former vice chairman of the Health subcommittee and worked on initiatives such as bills addressing opioid abuse.

James Mayse, 270-691-7303,, Twitter: @JamesMayse


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