House Passes Alzheimer’s and Dementia Legislation

Representative Mike Connolly joined his Cambridge and Somerville 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 by 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.

“As our population continues to age, Alzheimer's disease has emerged as one of our largest unaddressed public health threats,” said Rep. Connolly. “This legislation will improve our ability to provide care and support to the growing number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia," said Rep. Connolly.

“Almost every resident in the Commonwealth has felt the effects of this tragic disease, and sadly the number of those suffering has continued to grow,” said Rep. Danielle Gregoire, Chair of the Committee on Elder Affairs. “I am proud of the House’s swift action to address the looming public health crisis that is Alzheimer’s disease and am grateful that the Speaker has made this critical legislation a priority as we enter the new year.  I look forward to the day that it is signed into law.”

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.

The legislation requires hospitals to implement an operational plan for recognizing and managing individuals with dementia. Hospitals must complete and implement their operational plan by October 1, 2021, and provide the Department of Public Health with the plan as requested.

This Bill now goes to the Senate.