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4/24/2019 Sen. Coyne sponsors three bills to support Alzheimer’s care
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Cynthia A. Coyne has introduced three pieces of legislation aimed at better supporting Rhode Islanders affected by Alzheimer’s disease and securing more federal funding for Alzheimer’s programs in the state.

“Alzheimer’s disease profoundly reshapes families, often for years. Its effects slowly rob people of the abilities they have had their whole lives. Providing the care that their loved ones need can be an enormous challenge for families. We must ensure that we are carefully and effectively using every available resource we have to ensure that every person affected by Alzheimer’s has the support and care they need,” said Senator Coyne (D-Dist. 32, Barrington, Bristol, East Providence), whose father died after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

 The first bill (2019-S 0223), which is based on legislation signed into law last year in Massachusetts, establishes a program within the Department of Health dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease, and creates a 13-member advisory council that would provide policy recommendations, evaluate state-funded efforts for care and research and provide guidance to state officials on advancements in treatment, prevention and diagnosis.

The bill would require the Department of Health to assess all state programs related to Alzheimer’s, and maintain and annually update the state’s plan for Alzheimer’s disease. The bill would also require the Department of Health to establish an Alzheimer’s disease assessment protocol specifically focused on recognizing the signs and symptoms of cognitive impairments, and appropriate resource information for effective medical screening, investigation and service planning. The bill would require caseworkers working with the Department of Elderly Affairs to be familiar with those protocols. Additionally, the bill would require a one-time, hour-long training on diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with cognitive impairments for all physicians and nurses licensed in the state.

Adoption of the bill would enable Rhode Island to qualify for federal funding that is available to help states with their efforts to support those with Alzheimer’s disease.

The bill is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee after the Senate session in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House. House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) is sponsoring the bill (2019-H 5178) in the House.

The second bill (2019-S 0302) would allow the spouses or partners of patients residing in Alzheimer’s or dementia special care unit or program to live with them, even if they do not meet the requirements as patients themselves. Allowing couples to live together would help maintain patients’ relationships, connections and personal dignity. Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) is sponsoring the bill (2019-H 5141) in the House.

The final bill (2019-S 0310) is a resolution in support of the adoption and implementation of a new five-year update to the state plan for Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. The state’s Long-Term Care Coordinating Council, led by Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee, developed the updates over the course of a year, announcing its completion in February. The plan includes more than 30 recommendations, including the allocation of one director-level position within the Department of Health to coordinate the implementation of actions in the plan, efforts to promote Alzheimer’s and dementia research in Rhode Island and the inclusion of brain health in existing publicly-funded health promotion and chronic disease management activities. Rep. Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) is sponsoring the bill (2019-H 5569) in the House.

There are an estimated 23,000 Rhode Islanders age 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s disease — about 17.4 percent of that population, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. With the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, the rate of Alzheimer’s is expected to increase. In just six years, the number is expected to increase to 27,000. In the United States, nearly one in every three seniors who die has Alzheimer’s or another dementia.

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923