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State Policy Achievements in South Carolina Earn National Distinction

State Policy Achievements in South Carolina Earn National Distinction
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April 9, 2024
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The Palmetto State is gaining prominence on a national stage for its momentum in fighting Alzheimer's and dementia through meaningful advances in public policy. 

On April 7-9, over 1,000 advocates gathered from across the nation in Washington, D.C., for the 2024 Alzheimer's Impact Movement (AIM) Advocacy Forum. After two awards were presented to exceptionally inspiring advocates, a new inaugural award was introduced, one that will be awarded each year to one state in recognition of policy accomplishments at the state level.

We are thrilled to announce that the first-ever winner of the State Policy Achievement Award was presented to South Carolina!

"It was an astounding year of progress in South Carolina," remarked Kenann Cassidy, Alzheimer's Association Area East Leader, as she bestowed the award upon advocates and South Carolina Chapter staff. "In 2023, the state of South Carolina took tremendous steps to build an infrastructure that ensures a coordinated statewide response to Alzheimer's and all other dementia."

In 2023, fourteen years after the release of its previous state Alzheimer’s plan, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC) released the 2023-2028 South Carolina Statewide Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias. The updated plan outlines five priorities for addressing Alzheimer’s and other dementia: educating health care providers and communities, engaging in advocacy and policymaking, improving access to care, improving caregiver support, and increasing access to data and resources. 

Following this publication, the South Carolina General Assembly passed SB 0569 / Act No. 53 of 2023, which Governor McMaster signed into law at a ceremonial event (pictured below). This bill requires an advisory council to maintain and update the plan every five years and submit an annual report to the Governor and General Assembly on the progress towards fulfilling the state plan. Ensuring frequent updates to the state Alzheimer’s plan will help the Palmetto State comprehensively address Alzheimer’s and other dementia now and in the years ahead. 

These were absolutely vital steps, but the initiative that ultimately earned the State Policy Achievement Award was one that required remarkable support and cooperation from South Carolina's lawmakers, as well as state agencies and state research universities.

Together, these often disparate parties dared to envision a South Carolina where all citizens, even the most rural, would have access to top-notch Alzheimer's clinical trials and care.

For years, South Carolinians living with Alzheimer’s have had extremely limited access to clinical trials for new Alzheimer’s treatments. Those who are able have had to travel for hours at their own expense, often out of state, to pursue eligibility for treatment trials. Currently, the nearest Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers (ADRCs) designated by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) are in Georgia, North Carolina and Florida, with pilot centers in Tennessee and Alabama.

There are currently no ADRCs in South Carolina — but thanks to state legislators, that may not be the case for long.

In 2023, South Carolina took steps to invest in the fight against Alzheimer's and all dementia, appropriating $10 million for the Department of Health and Human Services (SC DHHS) to contract with the University of South Carolina, the Medical University of South Carolina, and Clemson University in pursuit of a multi-institutional ADRC designation in our state.

These research institutions will utilize the new funding to strengthen their dementia research efforts and coordinate the organizations’ joint application to the National Institute on Aging to become an ADRC. If designated, the ADRC will drive access to coveted treatment trials, improve health care quality for dementia patients, open new funding streams for research and help recruit the best and brightest practitioners and researchers in the field.

The inaugural State Policy Achievement Award is coming home to the Palmetto State because of our many supporters in the fight against Alzheimer's and all dementia.

We are grateful to our legislative champions at the State House and our volunteer advocates for their commitment to this cause, as well as to our dedicated policy staff in South Carolina, led by Taylor Wilson, Director of Government Affairs.

While celebrating this moment, the Alzheimer's Association is urging the General Assembly to keep up the momentum in 2024 by ensuring that an estimated 112,500 South Carolinians living with Alzheimer's and their families have access to much-needed support and local community-based services.

As Wilson recently told the Post and Courier and WLTX News 19:

"While we're looking for treatments, prevention, and cures, we can't leave behind the families that are already suffering."

Advocates recently gathered at the South Carolina State House to support of the Department on Aging budget request of $1.1 million to establish a Dementia Care Specialist program with dedicated staff in ten regions across the state. If funded, this unprecedented measure would provide hyper-local resources for individuals facing a dementia diagnosis and families navigating dementia care needs.

In a two-year pilot program conducted by the Department on Aging, one Dementia Care Specialist was able to provide online trainings for nearly 400 people, in addition to helping over 100 families connect with local resources. Imagine the impact that could be made by multiplying that role across 10 regions in the state!

The South Carolina General Assembly already has a long history of recognizing the importance of assisting dementia caregiving families. The state budget maintains a long-running $900,000 in funding for dementia-specific respite care available through the state's Area Agencies on Aging, as well as $150,000 in funding for the Alzheimer’s Resource Coordination Center to provide dementia-specific grants to community groups that provide additional respite and services for people living with dementia and their families.

Our state motto is Dum Spiro Spero, which means "While I breathe, I hope." Our fight against Alzheimer's and all dementia is, at its heart, one of hope. But while we hope, we act.

We are proud of the many ways that South Carolina has made an impact for families facing dementia, and we look forward to continuing this momentum in 2024 and beyond!

From the State House to Capitol Hill, the Alzheimer's Association and the Alzheimer's Impact Movement are committed to working with advocates and lawmakers across the country to implement policies to improve the lives of individuals living with dementia and their caregivers. To get more involved with our efforts, check out the volunteer opportunities that we offer through advocacy.


Alzheimer's Association

The Alzheimer's Association leads the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.™ For more information, visit or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.

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