State Advocacy Day Highlights Need to Act Now on Alzheimer's Disease Legislation
The State house was immersed in purple this past Tuesday with supporters and advocates from the Alzheimer’s Association joining legislators at the State House to share their stories, and push for legislation to be passed at the General Assembly to make an impact in helping those in the most need.
The Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Day provided opportunities for advocates to meet face-to-face with their state elected officials. The program featured speeches on legislation to adopt Rhode Island’s State Plan to address Alzheimer’s disease from Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee as well as House Majority Leader Joseph Shekarchi, House Rep. Mia Ackerman and State Senator Cynthia Coyne on state legislative proposals that include creating a program under the Department of Health and an advisory council to oversee implementation of programming, requiring training for medical professionals, and establishing Alzheimer’s plans in medical facilities.
Other guest speakers include Rose Jones, the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Elderly Affairs; Donna McGowan, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association, Rhode Island Chapter; Marc Archambault of South Kingstown, who has been diagnosed with the disease; and caregiver Melody Drnach of Jamestown.
“Here in Rhode Island, we are fortunate to have a passionate, dedicated and close-knit community of Alzheimer’s advocates,” said Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee. “I (am) proud to stand with them to highlight our new State Plan on Alzheimer’s and other important legislation aimed at combating this devastating disease.”
Alzheimer’s disease is a public health crisis, and is the fifth leading cause of death in Rhode Island. Diagnosed cases are projected to increase by 17% by 2025, based on the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2019 Facts and Figures report, and Rhode Island has one of the highest percentage of those aged 65 or older in the United States.
“Alzheimer’s disease remains one of the most critical public health issues in America, and state governments stand on the front line,” said Donna M. McGowan, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association, Rhode Island Chapter. “State government must address the challenges the disease poses and take bold action to confront this crisis now. Alzheimer’s is a growing crisis for our families and the economy. That’s why we are unrelenting advocates for public policy that advances research and improves access to care and support services.”
The legislation heighted were the The State Alzheimer’s Plan legislation included in House Bill 5569 and Senate Bill 310, while the Department of Health program legislation is House Bill 5178 and Senate Bill 223.
“Alzheimer’s disease and its impact on society is not only a growing public health concern, it very well may be the next biggest public health emergency that we as policymakers need to address,” said Rep. Ackerman. “We’ve already begun crafting legislation that will establish a program in Rhode Island to address the disease.”
She encouraged everyone throughout the state from hospitals, researchers, medical professionals, state agencies, and fellow members of the General Assembly to act now to address the public health crisis.
“There are many factors to be considered in the great work ahead of us,” Ackerman said. “From early detection and diagnosis, to building a workforce capable of handling the unique health care needs of Alzheimer’s patients. This is something that will take a lot of effort and a lot of time. Now is the time to get to work on this.”