W.Va. Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Day to focus on first-responder legislation

CHARLESTON — The Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter will host its annual State Advocacy Day on Wednesday, February 16.

This year’s event, which will be held at 1 p.m. via Zoom, allows Alzheimer’s advocates from across the state to hear directly from state legislators about policy issues important to families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The event is open to the public. To register, please email [email protected] A Zoom link to access the event will be emailed to you.

This year’s legislative focus will be on new legislation just introduced in the state’s House of Delegates and Senate requiring all new law enforcement personnel to undergo specialized training in how to identify and communicate with individuals living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as how to return them safely to their caregivers. The first-responder training also includes understanding risks such as wandering and elder abuse. 

David Zielonka, Public Policy Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter, said, the training was developed in-house by the West Virginia Alzheimer’s Association and was available on demand for police departments that requested it. “Now, the Alzheimer’s Association is partnering with a law enforcement coalition that includes the West Virginia State Fraternal Order of Police, the West Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, and the West Virginia Chiefs of Police Association, as well as the West Virginia Statewide Independent Living Council and the disability advocates group, the Fair Shake Network, to ensure that all new law enforcement personnel have undergone this critical training program,” he said.

At Advocacy Day, members of both parties from the WV House of Delegates and Senate will share with the audience why they are supporting this legislation and outline its path forward to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

In West Virginia, 39,000 individuals ages 65 and older live with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association and there are 85,000 unpaid family and friends acting as caregivers. By 2025, the number of West Virginians living with Alzheimer’s in those age categories is expected to reach 44,000.

During the event, the Alzheimer’s Association will also talk about the January draft decision by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that limits access to all current and future FDA-approved treatments targeting amyloid in those living with Alzheimer’s disease — regardless of clinical trial results and what the FDA recommends.

“The January 11 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services draft decision which limits coverage and access to an FDA-approved treatment for early-stage Alzheimer’s patients is shocking discrimination against everyone with the disease. Specifically, African Americans, Hispanic Americans and individuals living in rural areas will be the most affected,” said Sharon Covert, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter. “All Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease are entitled to therapies, just as people with conditions like cancer, heart disease and HIV/AIDS,” she said.

The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research.