TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — At an event in Fort Lauderdale, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the READY Act into law, making changes to health care training and education in Florida, and providing additional funding for treatment and care of Alzheimer’s Disease.
“Alzheimer’s is a very destructive illness. It’s something that of course afflicts the individual who has it, but it has an enormous impact on family and caretakers, really unlike any other disease that we face,” DeSantis said at the event. “With an elderly population, this is something we’ve put a lot of emphasis on since I’ve become governor. Today we’re furthering that commitment to do all we can to help support Alzheimer’s research and treatment and help support care for those who are afflicted with Alzheimer’s.”
The Ramping up Education of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia for You Act, Senate Bill 806, expands how public health and community outreach programs used by the Florida Department of Health train and educate health care practitioners about Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia-related disorders.
Under the law’s provision, licensed health professionals in Florida will be trained in early detection and timely diagnosis for Alzheimer’s Disease.
Additionally, medical professionals and other health care practitioners will be taught how to use a validated cognitive assessment tool, and “the value and effectiveness of the Medicare annual wellness visit” to detect Alzheimer’s Disease.
The state will also require health care staff to learn how to reduce the risk of cognitive decline, especially in communities with diverse populations that face a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
At the Broward Health event in Fort Lauderdale, DeSantis said the new Florida fiscal budget would direct an additional $12 million to the state’s Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative Program, bringing the total to $52.3 million, and giving $9 million to the Community Care for the Elderly Program.
According to Michelle Branham, the Secretary for the Department of Elder Affairs, there are more than 590,000 Floridians living with Alzheimer’s Disease. The Florida Legislature’s analysis of SB 806 predicts that number will grow to 720,000 over the next three years.
After DeSantis signed the bill, Tampa-based geriatrician Dr. Rosemary Laird, provided comment in support of the legislation. Laird is a member of the Florida Alzheimer’s Disease and Advisory Committee.
“For years it has been thought that memory loss is an inevitable fact of aging. While there are changes to the brain as we age, those with Alzheimer’s disease are facing a uniquely challenging illness and deserve to be diagnosed as early as possible and supported fully,” Laird said. “Providers need to be ready to use evidence-based tools to evaluate, diagnose and advise patients. The READY Act is a vital support to existing networks of programs addressing this significant need.”
The READY Act, now law, takes effect July 1.