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Alzheimer’s Association cheers signing of bill to create state dementia director

Florida has 580,000 people with Alzheimer’s disease

The Alzheimer’s Association is applauding the signing Thursday of a bill setting statewide coordination of Florida’s Alzheimer’s disease programs and policies.

On Thursday Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 835, establishing a dementia director position within the Department of Elder Affairs to coordinate the state’s policies and programs for addressing Alzheimer’s disease.

“This is a big win for our Florida seniors,” Michelle Branham, vice president of public policy for the Florida region of the Alzheimer’s Association, stated in a news release. “Gov. DeSantis has made it clear that Alzheimer’s is a top priority under the State Health Improvement Plan and this piece of legislation is critical for its success. We thank Gov. DeSantis for his leadership and commitment to our senior population.”

The legislation, which was written and proposed by the Alzheimer’s Association, creates the dementia director position to assist the Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Committee with the development of the Alzheimer’s disease state plan, support the state’s memory disorder clinics, facilitate public education on Alzheimer’s disease, coordinate dementia research programs, and collect data on the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on the state.

HB 835 passed unanimously in both the House and the Senate and its provisions will take effect on July 1, 2020. It was cosponsored in the House by Democratic Rep. Matt Willhite of Wellington and Republican Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood on the House side and pushed by Sens. Kelli Stargel and Sen. Audrey Gibson on the Senate side.

Plakon, who, along with Willhite, has been a champion in recent years for Alzheimer’s support, praised the Governor.

“The Governor has been all-in when it comes to helping families struggling with Alzheimer’s,” Plakon said.

Plakon’s involvement grew from his own family’s struggle, as his first wife Susie Plakon developed Alzheimer’s and died from it in 2018.

“There are 580,000 people with Alzheimer’s right now in the state of Florida. When you count caregivers and people in their direct orbit helping them, it is over a million Floridians are affected by it,” Plakon said.

He pointed out that the support for that bill and previous efforts has received wide bipartisan support.

“Helping people with this terrible disease is as bipartisan as anything I’ve ever seen,” Plakon said.

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month.

“We are so grateful for the dedicated efforts of Reps. Willhite and Plakon and Sen. Stargel and Gibson, who have proven time and again to be strong supporters of our mission to eliminate Alzheimer’s and all other dementia, and we look forward to the day when we can all finally say, ‘Mission accomplished,’” Branham said.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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