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2019 marks a legislative session here in Rhode Island where we can make significant inroads in addressing the health crisis we face with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. There are over 23,000 individuals with the disease and over 53,000 caregivers that provided countless hours of care and support for them, and we need the infrastructure in this state to be able to give them the resources they need.

We ask for legislators to adopt the Rhode Island State Plan on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders that Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee and numerous stakeholders took part in crafting after meeting with and hearing from many individuals impacted by the disease in local communities. This plan serves as the frame work for addressing the issue long term by recommending that the Department of Health coordinates the implementation of actions in the plan through activities of public health in close collaboration with the Lt. Governor’s Office, the Division of Elderly Affairs and other agencies, promoting Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia research opportunities of all types and including brain health in all publicly-funded health promotion and chronic disease management activities.

Legislation to adopt the State Plan, mainly House Bill 5569 and Senate Bill 310, has been proposed this year by Rep. Mia Ackerman and Sen. Cynthia Coyne, and we urge that the General Assembly pass the bill in order to push the agenda forward.

We also are asking legislators to pass House bill 5178 and Senate bill 223 proposed by Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi and Sen. Coyne that would create a program within the Department of Health to work with an advisory council of key partners from the state to address Alzheimer’s disease to review data on the scope of the disease in the Ocean State, establish an assessment protocol, require training on Alzheimer’s disease for physicians and nurses and require operational plans for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia for medical facilities in the state.

We have made great strides in connecting with our state legislators, and the time is now to act. Alzheimer’s is the fifth leading cause of death in this state, and there is no cure. We ask that the General Assembly pass these bills and continue to address the issue legislatively, and we call on the public to reach out to their legislators to ask them to make this a priority now and every session in the future.

The Alzheimer’s Association will be at the State House on Tuesday, May 7 from 2-4 pm to push for these changes, meet with legislators and to make our concerns known.

Donna M. McGowan

Providence

The writer is the executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association Rhode Island Chapter.

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