Gambling bill hearing, potential mental health cuts and Alzheimer's research

May 12, 2015

Mobile Greyhound Park, one proposed location for a casino in Alabama

Supporters and critics of legalized gambling and an Alabama state lottery are scheduled to meet in Montgomery today.

If approved by voters, the measure would allow casino gambling at four state dog tracks along with lotto drawings. Critics of lotteries claim they’re a tax on the poor and a study by the non-partisan John Locke Foundation in North Carolina appears to support that idea.

Foundation spokesman Mitch Kokai says they examined who bought tickets during the first year of North Carolina’s lottery in 2007.

“Counties with the highest levels of poverty, counties with the highest levels of unemployment, those also were the highest levels of lottery sales.”

Alabama’s lottery idea is also considered controversial since those dollars aren’t earmarked for something like education. Lawmakers are trying to close a half billion budget deficit.

Alabama's mental health organizations are speaking out against the potential impact of budget cuts. They say cuts proposed for the state's mental health agency will have a severe impact on thousands of residents who depend on that funding.

Mental health service workers and recipients rallied in a downtown Birmingham park yesterday morning to tell state lawmakers not to cut millions of dollars in funding for the Alabama Department of Mental Health.

The agency is at risk of losing over $35 million in state funds and nearly $65 million in matching federal funds.

Gov. Robert Bentley participated in a similar rally in Mobile yesterday. He says the state is facing a "real crisis" and needs new revenue.

The governor's office says more than 24,000 people that suffer from mental illness would lose access to care or experience service reductions as a result of decreased funding.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is launching a new study into fighting Alzheimer’s disease.

They are developing a new drug with hopes to eventually find a cure. Studies show that African Americans are two to three times more likely to develop the disease. Stephanie Monroe is the director of the African American Network Against Alzheimer’s. She says it is important for African Americans to participate in these studies.

“We want to make sure that that drug actually works for African Americans and it works for everyone, and the only way we can do that is if African Americans participate. Right now we only have about two or three percent of clinical trials participants being African American. We’re thirteen percent of the population and I want to get that number more closely up to thirteen percent.”

Monroe says part of the study is to determine why certain populations are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Participants will take the drug or placebo on a monthly basis. She says the study is expected to last three years.