There’s been a seismic change in the world of Alzheimer’s disease non-profit fundraising and community outreach, and San Diego is not immune. Many chapters of the national Alzheimer’s Association, headquartered in Chicago, IL, have disaffiliated since the deadline of January 15, 2016, becoming independent organizations. San Diego’s chapter joined the flow in December 2015, with (former) San Diego Chapter President Mary Ball announcing that total independence was the only way to go. Along with Orange County, Greater Los Angeles, Texas, New York, and New Jersey, the San Diego chapter decided to become a stand-alone organization whose donations, fund-raising and programs all derive from and respond to the San Diego community. San Diegan caregivers and loved ones who are fighting Alzheimer’s disease can take comfort in the fact that the programs that serve and support them will remain the mission of the non-profit that is now all about San Diego.

The local chapters who decided to stay independent shared the same motivation as the San Diego chapter, now known as Alzheimer’s San Diego – the local organization with the local board will make the best decisions for the Alzheimer’s community it serves. The national organization announced a radical restructuring in late 2015 that would see 100% of donations and funds raised in local chapters flowing straight to the headquarters, along with dissolution of all the local boards and decision-making agency. Many in the Alzheimer’s non-profit community have reviewed the national organization’s balance sheet with alarm, noticing that in recent years salaries have gone up dramatically, and funds devoted to research have dropped considerably. The local chapters who chose to leave the fold felt that the care and support aspects of their mission would suffer in the national organization’s agenda, which appears to want the consolidation as a way to gain more clout in policy making. In all, 54 chapters have now decided to retain their autonomy, and to keep their funds and programs local.

What does this mean for the San Diego Alzheimer’s community? Last year, the group now called Alzheimer’s San Diego served 29,000 of the approximately 60,000 Alzheimer’s sufferers in San Diego with support groups, care consultations, and care programs. Fundraisers like art auctions, respite care programs, and memory-care activities and outings are all supported locally, and remain a priority of the San Diego board. Alzheimer’s San Diego is part of Collaboration4Cure, a research initiative that also includes the City and County of San Diego and San Diego’s premier research institutes. The three groups are combining resources with the goal of accelerating research and drug discovery projects aimed at finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease in San Diego.

Exciting things are happening in San Diego in the realms of both caregiver support and in research. The new status of the Alzheimer’s San Diego organization can only be a good thing for San Diego’s Alzheimer’s caregivers and patients. The focus for funds, support and research will stay on easing the load of San Diego caregivers and San Diego Alzheimer’s patients, where it belongs.