DeSantis signs Alzheimer’s bill, stresses importance of supporting caregivers

Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald/ Daniel A. Varela
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Gov. Ron DeSantis visited the Broward Health Sports Medicine facility Thursday afternoon to sign Senate Bill 806 requiring healthcare officials to become more educated on detection and prevention of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

He also announced the creation of the Florida Alzheimer’s Center for Excellence, a center to support impacted families and patients, and run clinical trials for treatments.

The center is the final part of the Dementia Action plan, which was established in 2019. The program will work in partnership with multiple organizations and Florida universities, including the University of Florida, Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University, medical device company INSIGHTEC, and others.

“Most people realize that Alzheimer’s is a very destructive illness. It’s something that of course afflicts the individual who has it, but it also has an enormous impact on families and caretakers, really unlike any other disease that we face,” DeSantis said. “We’ve said in a variety of instances, we want to put our seniors first, and this is another example.”

Florida ranks second highest in the number of Alzheimer’s cases, more than 580,000, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The funding in the Florida fiscal budget that begins July 1 includes a $12 million increase for the Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative Program, totaling $52.3 million. It also provided the Community Care for the Elderly Program with an additional $9 million, reaching $91.7 million in funding.

Tanya Miller, a volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association and a caregiver, spoke about her family and the impact Alzheimer’s and dementia had on her mother and father.

“These resources keep families together and empower them to keep loved ones at home during their journey,” Miller said. “I am thankful to live in a state working to lead the nation in Alzheimer’s care and research.”

Shane Strum, CEO and president of Broward Health and DeSantis’ former chief of staff, said work will begin immediately on treatment and support for families and patients.

“Broward County has over two million people,” Strum said, “and is one of the largest for senior citizens. You couldn’t have picked a better epicenter for this research to be conducted.”

The bill directs the Florida Department of Health, through existing programs, to educate healthcare providers about issues such as the importance of early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia and the use of validated cognitive-assessment tools.

“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,” Rosemary Laird, a Tampa-based geriatrician and member of the Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Committee, said in a statement released Thursday by the Alzheimer’s Association, which supported the bill.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.