NM Delegation Applauds Over $1 Million Grant to UNM Memory and Aging Center

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the National Institute on Aging, has awarded $1,069,505 to the University of New Mexico (UNM) Memory and Aging Center to conduct research on health disparities in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease among rural populations, with a particular focus on underserved Native American and Hispanic communities.

Approximately 43,000 New Mexicans suffer from Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is expected that this number will rise to 53,000 New Mexicans by 2025. The Memory and Aging Center at UNM is the first designated Alzheimer's Disease Research Center of its kind in New Mexico. The grant will support the center’s initiative to improve mental health care in rural New Mexico, with a specific focus on addressing health disparities affecting Native American and Hispanic communities.

“Diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are devastating,” said Udall, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Every New Mexican should have equal access to the care they need, but rural communities consistently lack access to high-quality mental and physical health care. This funding will also help UNM do critical research on best practices for serving Native American and Hispanic populations to begin addressing the health disparities in both research and resources affecting these communities. I will keep working to make sure critical funding like this will continue to reach New Mexicans and support UNM as a leading health care research university.”

“Alzheimer's disease disproportionately affects thousands of New Mexicans and their families. Far too often underserved Native American and Hispanic communities are hit the hardest due to a lack of resources,” said Heinrich. “With the right research, we can put health care infrastructures in place to reduce these disparities and provide adequate care and treatment to those who fall victim to this devastating disease. That is why I am proud to support this funding for UNM and will continue fighting to improve health care systems across New Mexico.”

“Any Alzheimer’s diagnosis is devastating, but for seniors in New Mexico’s rural, Hispanic, and Native communities, a missed or delayed diagnosis means fewer opportunities to slow the progression of the disease,” said Luján. “UNM’s Memory and Aging Center is working to address these health disparities, and I’m proud to join my colleagues in announcing this well-deserved award. I’ll keep fighting for the day that no family has to say the painful, long goodbye to their loved ones.”

“Every New Mexican deserves access to healthcare, yet disparities exist for rural, Native American and Hispanic communities. So, the delegation and I sent a letter to HHS in support of an application for funding to expand services to more communities in New Mexico. Today, we’re pleased to report that the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at UNM will be awarded a grant that will help them expand their research and treatment facilities to reach more patients and improve the quality of healthcare statewide,” said Haaland.

“Alzheimer’s disease impacts patients, families, and neighbors across New Mexico. The Memory and Aging Center at the University of New Mexico is at the forefront of Alzheimer’s research, and this funding will help researchers address disparities so that families managing the disease in rural areas, Native American, and Hispanic communities are not left behind. I will continue fighting to increase and protect research funding, which is essential to making progress in finding effective treatments,” said Torres Small.

The $1,069,505 in funding will support the New Mexico Memory and Aging Center in staff in partnerships with community health workers in rural communities across New Mexico to identify and treat patients at risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. The funding will also assist the center in procuring mobile MRI scanners to provide data to treat and refine best practices for treatment of Native American and Hispanic populations.