FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke at Broward Health Sports Medicine. Signage at the event read “Action for Alzheimer’s.” The governor signed Senate Bill 806, an Alzheimer’s healthcare and education bill into law.
The governor thanked Broward Health for hosting the event and thanked Michelle Branham, the Secretary for the Department of Elder Affairs, for her service. Then he introduced some of the speakers gathered for the event. He said that he would be signing a bill, as well as making other announcements.
“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. “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.”
DeSantis said the state had increased funding for Alzheimer’s initiatives by 60% since he took office as governor of Florida, saying it was the state putting “its money where its mouth is.” The bill, called the READY Act, is designed to provide further support to Alzheimer’s medical training, education, diagnosis, and care.
Senate Bill 806 is a piece of legislation passed in the Florida Legislature to provide funding for Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia care, as well as education about the illnesses which affect so many in Florida.
Referring to the state’s dementia action plan, DeSantis said “We have completed that plan, we have added Alzheimer’s and related dementias as a priority within the state health improvement plan,” as well as “paved the way for additional research and care” for those in Florida living with the disease, and hiring a Dementia Director for state leadership, becoming “one of only eight states to do so.”
The governor 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, bringing its total to $91.7 million.
“We want to help those living with Alzheimer’s, but we also would like to play a part with helping with research and treatment, so we can eventually take care of this much better,” DeSantis said. He announced the creation of the Florida Alzheimer’s Center of Excellence, to connect seniors and caregivers with “resources and training.”
The bill, once it is in effect, will put funding an state resources toward a “ramping up education programming” on Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia-related illnesses.
“The bill will require our health department to educate health care practitioners on early detection and diagnosis and reduce the risk of cognitive decline related to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias,” DeSantis said. “Education is one of the best ways that we can detect this disease early and address the symptoms.”
DeSantis thanked those gathered for their work on this issue, and introduced Branham to talk about state programs to handle Alzheimer’s and its related conditions. Speaking about the illness in Florida, Branham said there were more than 590,000 Floridians living with Alzheimer’s Disease.
“Our governor has done more than just passively listen to these voices. He has actively and thoughtfully anticipated their needs and invested in a better tomorrow for their families and all families in Florida,” Branham said, saying he had put effort toward building a foundation for dementia and Alzheimer’s care and more of a state infrastructure for those needs.
Branham called the funding approved by DeSantis for senior care “epic.”
“The Florida Alzheimer’s Center of Excellence will build on the current infrastructure of Alzheimer’s and dementia resources by connecting the state’s memory care disorder clinics, dementia care and cure initiative task forces, the Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Committee and the Department of Elder Affairs Care Navigators, to create a family-centered care system,” Branham said. “While researchers and public-private partnerships forge the most direct path to prevention, treatment, and ultimately a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, the creation of the Florida Alzheimer’s Center of Excellence helps Florida families now.”
She said the center would provide resources for caring, treatment, and early diagnosis, as well as support for critical planning.
Combining private and public programs and organizations, medical device company Insightec will partner with the state to support research into curing Alzheimer’s and providing care for afflicted residents. “FACE includes innovative partnerships like the one between INSIGHTEC and a consortium of Florida universities that identify patients for the Blood Brain Barrier clinical trials for more effective treatment of Alzheimer’s,” according to the governor’s office.
DeSantis signed SB 806 into law, then took some questions from the audience.
The governor responded to question about the 2024 presidential elections, joking that the 2022 elections hadn’t happened yet, saying questions on the coming political season was due to media obsession.
“It’s just funny, in a sure sign Gov. DeSantis is planning his political future, is taking his kids to get ice cream,” DeSantis laughed. “Or something like that. It’s just ridiculous. Obviously we have the 2022 election, which we do work on, but I mean we’re spending so much time advancing the ball substantively for the state of Florida.”
He highlighted recent budget approvals and vetoes and a series of education and environment initiatives signed into law. The governor said decisions on all of the pending legislation would be made by July 1, before asking if “anyone wanted to ask about Alzheimer’s.”
Answering a question about state initiatives instead, DeSantis focused on how the programs that were prioritized were aimed at helping the Florida school system and protecting the environment while combining it with “good policy.” He said budgetary responsibility was important as explanation for the vetoes he had signed, praising the state’s high budget surplus.
“The result is we have exceeded expectations on all things fiscal,” DeSantis said, pointing to people moving to Florida and saying the number of students in Florida had seen a “boom” as more migrated to the Sunshine State from both within and outside of the United States.
Discussing a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on concealed carry permits, DeSantis praised the ruling, particularly Justice Clarence Thomas for his written opinion on gun rights. Then he was asked about the recent news of Andrew Gillum’s federal indictment.
“What I would ask is, a lot of the media that propped him up, would they have any type of mea culpa on that?” DeSantis said. “There were clearly a lot of issues there, if you looked under the hood there, you saw it. But what was presented to the public was that this guy was the second coming. Never has a candidate been elevated that way by media outlets, certainly in the last 10 years or so. I can tell ya, if I had not won in 2018, this state would be in much worse shape.”
DeSantis said the state had accomplished more than “anyone thought we could accomplish” since his taking office. Closing out the event, DeSantis said the state would remain committed to its support of caring for Alzheimer’s patients and providing needed care to residents afflicted with the disease.