Ultrino, House pass alzheimer’s and dementia legislation

Bill will coordinate state efforts to address Alzheimer’s disease and aid patients and families grappling with related dementias.

BOSTON – Representative Steve Ultrino (D – Malden) joined his colleagues in the House to pass legislation which establishes an Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Council. The bill also requires the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to conduct an assessment on existing state efforts and implement a state plan to address the disease.

There are currently 120,000 individuals in Massachusetts with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, and experts predict the prevalence of Alzheimer’s will increase 25 percent in the next decade. Currently, more than 300,000 people in Massachusetts act as caregivers to one these patients. In 2017, Medicaid costs for caring for people with the disease totaled $1.55 billion.

“Massachusetts is a national leader in health care,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “This legislation ensures our ongoing commitment to confronting the largest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation. I believe it will strengthen our ability to provide quality care and ongoing support to the growing number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s throughout the Commonwealth.”

“Alzheimer’s disease affects hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts families, including many in Malden,” said Representative Ultrino. “As a member of the Committee on Elder Affairs, I’m proud to support this legislation, which will establish a state plan to accelerate treatment development, coordinate resources and care, improve diagnostic rates, and ensure more outreach to high-risk populations.”

The legislation creates minimum-training standards for elder protective services social workers and establishes a continuing education requirement for medical professionals to improve the diagnosis, care, and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

In an effort to strengthen a patient’s support network and improve communication, physicians will be granted increased flexibility when sharing medical information with a patient’s family throughout diagnosis and treatment. These changes operate within the existing legal framework of federal and state medical information privacy laws. The legislation also requires a new, one-time continuing education requirement for physicians, physician’s assistants, registered nurses, and practical nurses, which will include training in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Council, established in the legislation, will be required to meet quarterly and will provide EOHHS and the Legislature with recommendations on Alzheimer’s policy, an evaluation of state-funded research, care and programming, and any outcomes of such efforts. EOHHS will create an integrated state plan to facilitate the coordination of government efforts while ensuring that appropriate resources are maximized and leveraged.

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