Lawmakers talk Alzheimer’s legislation


COLUMBUS — Ohio is poised to take its first step in developing a comprehensive state plan to address the growing impact of Alzheimer’s disease on Ohioans and the state’s public health systems.

In a bi-partisan move, Sen. Steve Wilson, R-Maineville, and Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, reintroduced legislation, Feb. 14, to create a process that would lead to an official plan of action to help Ohio confront the sweeping economic and social impact of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

“Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t care if you are Republican or Democrat. It will impact everyone regardless of economic status, too. This is the right thing to do, and we will get support from both sides of the aisle,” Yuko said.

Currently 220,000 Ohioans live with Alzheimer’s, a progressive brain disease that is fatal. For each one, there are two to three caregivers, who also need support, making an estimated 1 million Ohioans directly affected by the disease. By 2025, an estimated 250,000 Ohioans 65 and older will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a 13.6 percent increase. Last year, Medicaid costs associated with Alzheimer’s stood at a staggering $2.36 billion.

However, Ohio is the only state without a plan to address the growing health crisis caused by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia and the only state without a formal process to create a plan.

Wilson said, “We have to get out of last place and take action now. We have a runaway train coming at us fueled by demographics.”

Among the issues Ohio’s state plan could take up are Alzheimer’s as a critical public health issue, the importance of early detection and diagnosis, resources for caregiver support, as well as safety concerns like wandering and driving. Several of these issues are close to the hearts of families across the state and the Miami Valley. Last year, the Miami Valley Alzheimer’s Chapter had 9,000 engagements with local families, which represented a 15 percent increase.

Eric VanVlymen, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter, said having a state plan will help guide the Alzheimer’s Association’s work to provide and enhance care and support for all affected and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

“Alzheimer’s is not just an aging issue, it’s a public health issue,” VanVlymen said. “The Alzheimer’s Association advocates for all families dealing with Alzheimer’s and aims to educate the public on how to reduce their risk of dementia. We applaud Senator Wilson and Senator Yuko for their leadership in moving this important bill forward.”

To connect with the Miami Valley Chapter, visit alz.org/dayton or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.