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Health Column: On a mission to end Alzheimer’s disease

One of downtown Riverhead’s newest arrivals isn’t a pizzeria or performance hall. Instead, it’s the second location of the Long Island chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association

The national organization, whose Long Island headquarters are in Melville, quietly opened an East End office at 30 West Main in February. The expansion was made possible by a $50 million state grant that funds programs and services intended to support people living with the disease and their caregivers.

“We are fully committed to providing care and support for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease,” Douglas Davidson, executive director of the nonprofit’s Long Island chapter, said in a press release. “With the opening of the Riverhead office, we will be able to provide direct services to more Long Islanders.”

According to its mission statement, the Alzheimer’s Association seeks to “eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.” In Riverhead, the organization offers caregiver education, public awareness programs and more.

A support group for people in the early stages of the disease and their caregivers also meets the fourth Sunday of each month from 3 to 4 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Riverhead.

“The disease touches so many families and devastates families,” Mr. Davidson said in an interview. “Obviously, it takes a huge toll on the country as a whole. I think we do great work helping people both today and tomorrow facing the disease.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than five million Americans suffer from the progressive condition, which destroys memory by causing brain cells to degenerate and die. The association predicts that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, will cost the nation $236 billion this year alone.

While a cure has not yet been found, organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association are committed to finding one. One way the Long Island chapter contributes to this effort is through its annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which takes place each September at Belmont Lake State Park and raised more than $75 million in 2015. This year, a second walk will take place Sept. 24 at Suffolk County Farm in Yaphank. And at 8 a.m. Tuesday, June 21, the Alzheimer’s Association will host a Walk to End Alzheimer’s kickoff celebration breakfast at Hotel Indigo in Riverhead. RSVP for the free event by June 8 by emailing [email protected] or calling 631-629-6950, ext. 8119.

For a round-the-clock help line and details about the caregiver support group in Riverhead, call Debbie Parker at 800-272-3900. For general information, visit alz.org/longisland.

Have a health column idea for Rachel Young? Email her at [email protected]m.

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