Indian Health Service funding provides resources to address Alzheimer’s disease

The Indian Health Service is announcing $5 million to target resources directly to tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian organizations, and IHS direct service facilities to address Alzheimer’s disease within tribal communities. This marks the first time IHS will allocate for this critical need.

This funding will support tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations to develop comprehensive and sustainable approaches to addressing Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of dementia, focusing on awareness, recognition, diagnosis, assessment, management, and support for caregivers.

“Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that affects an estimated 5.5 million Americans,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This historic funding opportunity for Native communities is much-needed and will go a long way toward supporting the goals of the Biden-Harris Administration National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.”

In December 2021, Secretary Becerra announced an annual update to the Department’s National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, which for the first time includes a goal focused on work being done to promote healthy aging and reduce risks that may contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

“These new resources will promote healthy living to reduce cognitive decline, encourage early detection and diagnosis due to dementia, and support caregivers,” said IHS Acting Director Elizabeth Fowler. “This funding will also provide greater flexibility for awardees to meet the unique needs within their communities.”

A recent study based in 2014 Medicare data estimated the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias of 10.5 percent in American Indians and Alaska Natives.  Between 2014-2060, the number of American Indian and Alaska Natives aged 65 and older living with memory loss is projected to grow over five times. Today, one of every five American Indian and Alaska Native adults aged 45 and older reports experiencing subjective cognitive decline, which can be a precursor to dementia.

The IHS remains committed to partnering with agencies across the federal government and non-governmental organizations to address key program components tied to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, including workforce development and community engagement. Today, the IHS and Alzheimer’s Association also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to identify areas of collaboration to address and improve the health and well-being of American Indians and Alaska Natives living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and their caregivers.

Congress appropriated a total of $10.5 million for Alzheimer’s grants in fiscal year 2021 and 2022. In March 2021, the IHS initiated tribal consultation and urban confer of these appropriations, seeking specific feedback on priorities necessary to implement and build an Alzheimer’s Grant Program for maximum success in federal, tribal, and urban Indian organization facilities. IHS’ announcement on funding decisions for $5.5 million in fiscal year 2022 funding is forthcoming.

The funding decisions for fiscal year 2021 funding were shared in a letter to tribes and urban Indian organizations on March 24. Eligible tribes, tribal organizations, and urban Indian organizations can now apply. The application deadline is July 18.

The IHS, an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 2.7 million American Indians and Alaska Natives who belong to 574 federally recognized tribes in 37 states. Follow the agency via social media on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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