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For this Franklin lawmaker, his Alzheimer's related legislation is personal


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WMOT/TNS)  --  A state lawmaker says the number of Tennesseans suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease will jump 16 percent in the next five years.

Franklin Rep. Sam Whitson is asking fellow lawmakers to get the state prepared by forming an Azheimer’s Advisory Council.

Testifying before the House Public Health Committee this past week Whitson noted there are currently 120,000 Tennesseans suffering from Alzheimer’s. He says that number will increase to 140,000 by 2024.

Whitson noted that his mother recently died of Alzheimers, making it a personal issue.

“It nearly killed my dad trying to take care of her. So when we talk about this council that we’re going to recommend that we authorize today, it’s not just about the patients, but also about the family members that this impacts.”

Rachel Blackhurst with the Alzheimer's Association of Tennessee says federal data shows the disease cost Tennessee nearly a billion dollars last year alone. She adds that Tennessee has the fourth-highest Alzheimer's death rate in the nation.  

Blackhurst says forming a council would help advocacy groups and government agencies coordinate their efforts. She says a council could also help Tennessee qualify for aid grants available only for Alzheimers advocacy and care.

"In the past, it's been individual advocacy groups trying to get the Legislature and the governor to take Alzheimers seriously. With the establishment of an advisory council within the state government, they will really become this 'official voice' of Alzheimer's disease."

The measure authorizing the commission will be debated this week in the Senate Government Committee, and the House Health Committee.

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