Bill to combat Alzheimer’s would encourage innovative breakthroughs

Published 7:00 am Thursday, September 3, 2015

Every August, I have the opportunity to spend more time in the state discussing my legislative priorities directly with Mississippians. One of the highlights this month was the chance to share my plan for advancing the fight against Alzheimer’s.

This fall I intend to introduce the “EUREKA Act,” which stands for “Ensuring Useful Research Expenditures is Key for Alzheimer’s.” My bill would encourage public-private partnerships to conduct prize challenges for breakthroughs in detecting, treating, or curing the deadly disease.

Alzheimer’s deserves our immediate attention. Affecting more than five million Americans, it is the sixth leading cause of death in the country. Over the next decade, the number of Mississippians with the disease is expected to rise by 27.5 percent. Without a cure or successful drug therapy, the annual cost of care nationwide could top $1 trillion by 2050, putting an even greater burden on Medicare and Medicaid.

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I witnessed our state’s commitment to finding practical solutions at the 16th Annual Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and Psychiatric Disorders in Older Adults, held in Meridian on August 19. Like my bill, the educational forum – hosted by the Mississippi Department of Mental Health and the Alzheimer’s Association of Mississippi – recognizes the need for collaboration and dialogue among policymakers, researchers, and health-care professionals. Beating Alzheimer’s would have a profound impact, eliminating a source of great human suffering in our society.
Rail’s Local Impact on Economic Growth
Before returning to Washington, I plan to tour the Grenada Railway, which runs from Southaven to Canton. Over the past several years, I have worked closely with our outstanding local and state officials to save the line from abandonment. Those efforts have been successful. In June, the North Mississippi Regional Railroad Authority, which is comprised of a coalition of seven counties, assumed ownership of the line. Local control of this rail service will help to ensure continued economic development and a better quality of life for communities across the state.

The nation’s rail system is an integral part of our overall transportation network. I recently introduced legislation with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to strengthen rail infrastructure and improve passenger safety. The bill, which is titled the “Railroad Reform, Enhancement, and Efficiency Act,” would also aim to restore Amtrak service between New Orleans and Orlando along the Gulf Coast. I am pleased that our legislation was included in the long-term highway bill passed by the Senate late last month.
Katrina Recovery Includes Port Expansion
Communities all along the Gulf Coast are gathering together this week to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The Coast has made a remarkable recovery over the past decade, but there is still work left to be done. On August 27, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro came to Mississippi to get a firsthand look at our progress. I was honored to accompany him during his visit to the Coast. I am pleased that Secretary Castro also took time to tour the Port of Gulfport, which is a critical piece of post-Katrina restoration.

The Port of Gulfport is well on its way to maximizing its potential as a first-class center of business and transportation. Significant state and federal investments have been made over the years to ensure that the port is equipped to handle larger “Post Panamax” ships after the expansion of the Panama Canal has been completed. In fact, since 2012, the Port of Gulfport Restoration Project has exceeded hiring requirements and has been in full compliance with federal standards.

We can all play a role in seeing that our state and the Coast continues its road to recovery. As one of Mississippi’s two U.S. Senators, I will continue to do my part to ensure that the state has the resources and tools it needs to succeed.

By Senator Roger Wicker